Pier design change proposed
Port Aransas Mayor Claude Brown is proposing a design change to prevent the city-owned Charlie's Pasture Pier from again being heavily damaged if another large ship wake hits it.
An unusually high wake from a passing ship ripped the first 25 feet of the pier's boardwalk away on Jan. 16.
No one fell into the Corpus Christi Ship Channel, but more than a dozen anglers were stranded for nearly two hours on the still-standing portion of the boardwalk before a Coast Guard boat rescued them.
One person was reported hurt. A man was sitting on a lawn chair on the adjacent concrete bulkhead, fishing, when he was knocked backward by the wave. He sustained an undetermined arm injury.
The damage made the pier inaccessible, forcing city officials to close it. Now the city is planning repairs.
City Manager Michael Kovacs said Brown has proposed elevating the portion of the pier closest to the bulkhead so ship wakes won't hit the boardwalk with such force. Kovacs said he has presented the idea to City Engineer Jim Urban.
Brown said he got the elevation idea from a suggestion made by Bill Austin, who lives at Porpoise Point, near the pier. Austin said he and his wife, Elida have seen big ship wakes strike the pier many times.
"Numerous times, we've seen … the wakes of ships either come to the top of that pier or go over it," Austin said.
Brown said repairs to the pier also likely should include extending a portion of the structure over land and anchoring it to there. That, he said, would make it even more resistant to ship wakes.
Brown said he doesn't believe the proposed new design will take more than a week longer to build than it would to rebuild from the previous design. He also didn't think the expense would be much more.
A tanker ship called the SKS Tiete was the vessel that sent the wake that destroyed part of the pier. A Coast Guard investigation determined that the ship was not speeding when it passed but that a high tide and coastal flooding contributed to the mishap.
The Coast Guard closed its investigation without citing anyone in connection with the incident.
Kovacs said the city still intends to find some party other than the city to pay for the pier damage, which is expected to run into the thousands of dollars. Despite the Coast Guard conclusion that the Tiete was not speeding, Kovacs said he believes ships likely are civilly liable for damage from their wakes.
The city has contacted its insurance company, Texas Municipal League Intergovernmental Risk Pools, and still is awaiting direction from the organization, Kovacs said.
"We've been talking to the Coast Guard, and we've been making calls to the shipping company and talking with our insurance company," Kovacs said. "But there's been no movement as yet on it."
A consultant representing the shipping company has contacted the city, trying to set up a meeting with city officials, Kovacs said. No meeting had been scheduled as of press time on Tuesday, Jan. 29.
Kovacs said he is hoping the meeting will result in an agreement that the shipping company or a related entity will pay for the damage.
The city is in the process of contacting some Port Aransas businesses to get quotes on how much it would cost to get the pier fixed, Kovacs said.
Plans are for the pier to be repaired and reopened before summer, the city manager said.