Morro Bay Council OKs Emergency Dock Repairs

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

April 7, 2023

The Morro Bay City Council approved using monies set aside for repairing the public launch ramp to fix damage to floating docks and slips caused by fierce winter storms this season.

New Harbor Director, Ted Schiafone, asked the City Council for permission to dip into previously approved Capital Improvement Project (CIP) monies that have been set aside for planning a project to repair the launch ramp’s concrete ramp, which has deteriorated over the years.

Schiafone’s staff report said, “During the storm events in January and March 2023, the boat ramp docks and three additional finger docks were significantly damaged.”

The boat ramp docks run parallel along either side of the launch ramp and allow boaters access to their floating boats after being launched. It’s also where one ties up the boat while they retrieve the trailer to pull it out of the water.

“The three additional finger docks berth six vessels,” Schiafone said, “and cannot be rented until they are repaired. The boat ramp fingers are necessary to support launching a vessel. In order to stop the general public use of those fingers, we would need to close the boat launch.”

Those finger docks are part of the Tidelands slips and rented primarily to commercial fishermen.

The so-called “Boat Launch Ramp & Float Replacement Planning” capital improvement project, Schiafone said, has several contracts that total $117,000 [including a 25% contingency]. That CIP project has a budget of $210,000.

Schiafone said the purpose of this planning job was to apply for grant monies from the State to construct the overall project, which in its first iteration also called for a new, covered fish cleaning station, and building a small launch ramp for kayaks, paddle boards and canoes. But the State Department of Boating and Waterways (DBW), which is where the City sought funding, wanted the Tidelands Park restrooms to be upgraded/replaced, which would have fallen to the City to pay for and ran the overall project costs much higher. 

The Harbor Department pulled back its grant request to do more planning on the overall needs for the launch ramp area and park. That work is underway now.

Schiafone added that this savings of $80,000-$90,000 should be enough to repair the docks. 

“Repairs for the boat ramp fingers are estimated to be $52,000,” he said. “A separate contract for the three finger docks is estimated to be $21,000. The two projects are estimated to cost a total of $73,000.” 

Add in some contingency money and the emergency repair budget should run about $80,000, but the true cost won’t be known until the job goes out for bids and is constructed.

Also, the dock repairs are expected to be included in the City’s application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for damage wrought by the big Jan. 8-9 storm, as well as the March 10 storm.

Both the State and Federal Governments have declared the State of California a disaster zone due to the over-abundant snows and rains that have come with this El Niño winter.

Switching money around that is being saved for a specific purpose to take care of more pressing needs is not unheard of. And it’s presumed that the launch ramp finger dock replacement would have to be done with the bigger project anyway.

The Harbor Department is in the process of assessing all of the damage the winter storms have cause, which effected numerous public facilities and the preliminary estimates form the January storm was over $30 million citywide. The new total estimate after the ensuing storms has not yet been released.

“Harbor docks, pilings, revetments, and seawalls all sustained damage from the January and March storms,” Schiafone said in an interview for another story. “We are in the process of getting estimates to repair. We must ensure these docks are safe and usable soon, or we will lose revenue by not being able to rent them. 

“The Harbor in cooperation with the City is filing an Insurance and FEMA Claim. Hopefully, we will receive reimbursement for this damage.”

So it’s possible the City can repair the immediate damage at the launch ramp and the slips, get reimbursed by FEMA, and the State and the launch ramp planning budget be made whole again.

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