The final vestiges of the government dock are being removed from the waters of Sand Bay this week.
The town enlisted George Armstrong Co. Ltd. to use its barge and a backhoe to pull out the pilings and other substructure, completing the removal of the damaged dock that began back in June.
“Public safety is always our first consideration with an activity such as is being conducted at the Point dock this week,” Fort Frances Fire Chief Frank Sheppard told the Times yesterday.
“We are entering into the winter months when ice will begin to accumulate in Sand Bay and around the pilings that are still in the water,” he noted.
“While the situation was stable throughout the summer, the added ice load will continue to deteriorate the materials and may generate a risk to the public by next spring,” he warned.
Chief Sheppard said the town had an opportunity to remove the material in a “very cost-efficient manner” as the company is intending to demobilize its barge and equipment at the end of this week.
“They are moving their equipment to the Red Lake area for a bridge project, and this would limit our ability to remove the pilings and damaged substructure into the foreseeable future,” he explained.
“To miss this opportunity would generate a significant mobilization cost to do the work after the fact.
“And while we will, as a community, obtain a secondary aesthetic benefit from the removal of these pilings, public safety has to be our primary consideration,” Chief Sheppard reiterated.
The work being done entails placing a chain with a grab loop on it around each piling, then pulling the piling out of the ground with a Cat 235 backhoe mounted on the barge.
“This is a very innocuous process with minimal bottom disruption and no deleterious material being disrupted,” Chief Sheppard stressed.
Some substructure cross braces also are being removed with the pilings, although many of these already had been taken out with the decking in June.
As a final step, a very large magnet will be swept above the bottom of the lake bed to pick up nails and other metal to make the area as safe as possible for public use.
“We may be unable to get all the way to the shore with the barge this fall, which will require final removal of some of the shore piles at the very low water level in early spring,” noted Chief Sheppard.
“That will allow us to enter onto the area with no water to consider.”
The removal of the pilings and substructure does not necessarily preclude the fact a new dock may be built down the road.
“These [pilings] would have to be removed regardless of future consideration of reconstruction,” said Chief Sheppard.
“The pilings were badly deteriorated and over 60 years old, with the majority of them already failing.
“In addition, the design and installation was an old marine construction type [while] today’s design would include much larger, deeper piles that utilize ground friction to support load,” he added.
“The pile spacing would be much wider, and they would rely on design trusses to support deck load instead of timber mass.
“Even assuming the piling was pristine, a modern design would likely be more cost-efficient then using the old design,” he reasoned.
The decision on future development at Point Park ultimately will be made by town council, said Chief Sheppard.
He reiterated the removal of the pilings and substructure this week “will in no way compromise what a future council may decide.”