by John Maguire
Coastal Journal staff
BATH — The city needs to fund an engineering study to make pier improvements by Waterfront Park in order to dock cruise ships, said planning and development director Andrew Deci during the February 1 Bath City Council meeting.
Councilors approved spending $7,022 to match a $16,977 grant from the Maine State Planning Office for the Bath Waterfront Pier Dolphin Improvement Engineering Program. The city’s portion will come out of the City Manager’s Project Fund, according to Bath city manager William Giroux.
The planning department’s application for a Shore and Harbor Technical Assistance Grant from the Maine Coastal Program states that while technical improvements have been made to the public pier and floating dock system at Waterfront Park, the current system does not allow larger vessels to safely tie up. According to Deci, larger vessels, those up to 300 feet in length, have to tie up in other locations, such as at the Maine Maritime Museum. Passengers have to then take a trolley into town.
Deci said his department has found in the past year or two that pier improvements at Waterfront Park “have not been strong enough” to allow large cruise vessels to dock in that section of the river.
With respect to waterfront docking systems, “dolphins” are isolated marine structures for berthing and mooring vessels, according to those in the industry. In “A Closer Look at Prevailing Civil Engineering Practice: What, Why and How” by Vincent TH Chu, two types of dolphins are described: breasting and mooring dolphins. While mooring dolphins secure vessels by the use of ropes close to the pier, breasting dolphins keep a ship from colliding with the pier and restrict longitudinal movement.
The application proposes, at the suggestion of technical advisors and consultants, the current dolphin system used to secure the floats be reinforced and/or additional dolphins be put in place.
The funds and matching grant will cover the cost of planning and engineering designs for enhancements to the piers by Waterfront Park, allowing vessels up to 300 feet in length to dock there. The planning and development office wants to use the funds to hire a consulting marine or harbor engineering firm to develop a plan for the pier improvements.
The city has already invested a good deal of money in this area of the downtown, from the Waterfront Park to the train station. Deci said the planning office is also currently working on sidewalk improvements along Commercial Street.
According to the application, Bath has 24 cruise ship visits scheduled, which would bring 50-100 passengers to the city each trip.
“We have a very peculiar situation here in Bath when it comes to shipping and boat cruises and the presence of rail in the same vicinity,” Deci said. “We’re one of the very few places in Maine where those two actions take place within walking distance, literally within one block.”
Deci said the State Planning Office sees such a project as “highly desirable” for the City of Bath. According their application, Bath’s comprehensive plan states that the “Waterfront Park is the best location for expanded waterfront facilities to support Maine’s ‘Strategic Passenger Transportation Plan,’ which envisions bringing tourists to Maine for vehicle-free vacations.”
Moments before counsilors unanimously approved the project, Deci said, “We’re certainly getting a lot of bang for our buck: a $24,000 engineering project for about $7,000.”
Counsilor Mari Eosco said that as the “City of Ships,” they should support efforts to bring larger vessels in. Giroux agreed, and said it would be beneficial to have more Coast Guard vessels closer to downtown.
Based on the planning department’s estimation, the design created by a consulting firm could be implemented as early as this summer or fall, and ready the pier for larger vessels in summer 2013.