Harbour authority considers options for condemned Huron Street Wharf

The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority is still considering what to do with a pier used by commercial fishing boats to offload catch three months after it was closed to traffic.

The Huron Street Wharf, west of Fisherman’s Wharf in James Bay, has been behind a padlocked gate and concrete bollards since late August after an engineering report deemed the structure unfit for vehicle traffic.

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“We were in a situation where it couldn’t sustain the weight of heavy vehicles so we shut it down,” said Ian Robertson, chief executive of the harbour authority.

The pier was used by large trucks to collect fish being offloaded by crane from commercial fishing vessels.

Since late August, the vessels have been using an alternative location on the Upper Harbour, Robertson said.

If there doesn’t appear to be much urgency about fixing the problems at Huron Street Wharf, Robertson said that’s because they are considering all options. “We are looking at the costs of building to the same design, or do we want to do anything else with it?” he said. “The reality is we don’t generate a lot of revenue off that particular pier, and we have to ask: Do we need a similar type of pier there?”

Robertson said they intend to speak with the fishing fleet and other users to determine the next step. “There’s no time frame or idea of cost at this point,” he said.

The engineering report that deemed the structure to be unsafe is one of several that have been completed for the harbour authority as it undertakes a comprehensive review of all of its facilities — from Ogden Point to the Lower Causeway and Fisherman’s Wharf.

Robertson said they have been doing a deep dive on the condition of all the facilities over the last six months, and he estimates they are halfway through the process.

He said their previous assessments have not gone into such depth, and he expects when completed the harbour authority will be armed with a comprehensive understanding of the state of their facilities.

“A lot of our facilities are aging, so this will end up being a big conversation with the Greater Victoria community about how [the GVHA] responds to aging infrastructure,” he said.

That means how do they fund what is expected to be the heavy cost of maintaining public facilities that generate no revenue, such as the Lower Causeway and Ogden Point breakwater.

Robertson said it’s clear that all levels of government will need to be part of funding the upkeep, and he has already started the process of broaching the subject in Ottawa.

When asked if all levels of government are aware they are expected to be part of the solution, Robertson would only say “it’s very early days.”

“First we need to know what we are dealing with. When we believe we have that, then let’s have the conversations,” he said.

The harbour authority is also studying a report prepared by Jonathan Huggett, former project director for the Johnson Street Bridge, on the state of the master plan for the redevelopment of Odgen Point.

A tentative master plan that could take decades and cost $300 million was unveiled in 2016. It suggested the site could include a hotel, stores, cruise ship and other marine services, parks, walkways, First Nation displays and an educational component.

Huggett’s report was to look at the best way to implement that plan, which has been in the works for a decade, or suggest anything that might be changed.

Robertson said he expected he would be tackling that report with the harbour authority’s board early in 2020.

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