Earlier this year, motoring along Beach Drive NE near Port Orchard would invariably provide you a glimpse of the 90-year-old deteriorating wooden Port of Waterman pier, which had been closed to public use because of safety concerns.
But today, the pier is a site for sore eyes, especially for the area’s fishing enthusiasts.
The 230-foot Waterman Pier has been transformed into a source of civic pride and now worthy of the beautiful scenery surrounding it. Instead of having creosote-coated pilings support a structure slowly being eaten away by saltwater and tiny sea life, this reincarnation features 30 steel pilings, a new concrete sea wall, composite floor grating and railings made of aluminum. The new steel piles have replaced 56 decaying wooden piles.
This transformation was a long time coming, said longtime Port of Waterman Commissioner Jack McCarn.
He said the old pier’s maintenance had become a serious issue — considering that the commissioners were the unofficial “maintenance men” for the site.
“We had lots of problems with nails popping out and rusting off, and boards becoming loose,” McCarn said.
“This new pier will eliminate almost any need for maintenance. We also had many sink holes to contend with in the parking area.”
Advancing the new pier project took about six years, the commissioner said, before the existing structure was replaced. Construction has taken much less time; work began early in July.
While the pier’s footprint remains the same, all of the existing pilings, footings and decking were removed and replaced by a Marine Structures Engineering-designed structure of aluminum trusses and composite gratings. Fabrication was completed by Mantel Industries. Port Orchard’s N.L. Olson and Associates designed the seawall and parking area, and Grant Solutions Inc. handled grant-writing responsibilities for the Port of Waterman.
Only small details are in the way of project completion. McCarn said he hopes fisherman will be able to put their gear into the water by the end of this month.
When lighting is placed on the pier — four lights at the end of the pier, known as the “lollipop,” and three along the promenade — the project will essentially be complete. At the moment, the parking lot consists of a layer of gravel that will be paved over with asphalt sometime in the spring. McCarn said the delay will allow the fill gravel to settle over the next few months.
State and Port funding
The new pier project cost $1.375 million and was paid for by two grants, both from the state.
The $575,000 state grant was part of the Recreation Conservation Office’s $55 million allocation from its Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program for similar recreation projects around Washington.
The state’s Aquatic Land Enhancement Account (ALEA) also allotted $500,000. ALEA is a fund whose money is generated from aquatic lands to protect and enhance them.
The final financial puzzle piece came from the Port of Waterman, which contributed $300,000 to the project.
Rod Reid, also a port commissioner, said the port received a needed boost from 26th District legislative members Sen. Jan Angel, and State Representatives Michelle Caldier and Jesse Young, who also sought state money from the Legislature.
Reid said the port was fortunate to receive the two grants. “If we hadn’t, we wouldn’t have had the money to replace the dock,” he said. “When these old piers are gone, they don’t come back.”
That’s great news to the legions of fishermen who’ve lined the pier for generations to harvest squid, rock crab and salmon from the waters of Sinclair Inlet. McCarn said the pier’s design was guided by the state Department of Natural Resources and federal Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.
The promenade surface is spaced to provide more lighting for marine life underneath it. And the structure’s side railings have slots built in at intervals that allow wheelchair-bound individuals to comfortably fish the waters.
Studying marine life
A side stairway will lead to the public-owned beach area on which the pier sits. McCarn said the stairway will allow children to be able to put their hands in the water and study marine life near the sea wall. “It’s a wonderful thing for the kids,” he said. “The new pier is a public treasure.”
McCarn said an important feature at the pier will be new signage that details the pier’s history and the marine life along Rich Passage.
The Port’s history
The Port of Waterman, after all, has a storied past. The port district was formed in 1923 to take over the dock, then owned by the Orchard Beach Improvement Company.
At the turn of the 20th century, the pier was a busy place. It served Mosquito Fleet steamers that connected towns around Puget Sound.
During World War II, the pier was one of the stops made six times a day by the Black Ball Line while on its Bainbridge passenger route. When the service ended at the close of the war, the dock reverted to what it’s known for today — a fishing pier and scenic lookout.
Today, the Port of Waterman is supported by a taxing district comprising less than 1,000 homeowners.
McCarn said a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the pier will be staged sometime after the first of the year.
In other Port of Waterman news: Brian Moran, who was elected to the Board of Commissioners in November, will take office in January. McCarn also was re-elected due to a large write-in vote in the general election.