Central Coast

Dear Jon: Safety inspections for wharves and piers vary greatly

Latest storm damage will cause agencies to scramble for funding for repairs

Wharves and piers are for the enjoyment of the public but who maintains their safety? After these latest storms piers on the Central Coast showed they were vulnerable. Susan asked, "Dear Jon, what if anything, is being done to assure that wharves and piers on the Central Coast are safe for people to drive and walk on?" You'd think there is one standard program or one entity to monitor public safety on wharves and piers but there's not.

The piers at Stearns wharf in Santa Barbara, Gaviota, Pismo Beach, Morro Bay, Cayucos, San Luis, San Simeon, Monterey Fisherman's wharf, Capitola and Santa Cruz Wharf- all have a variety of jurisdictions that have financial responsibility to inspect and maintain the piers. These entities are the cities themselves, the counties and the state parks departments. Do piers get inspected regularly? Theoretically- about every three to five years they're inspected, but in the case of Santa Cruz wharf, it's inspected daily. And the Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara also has its own inspection team that does weekly inspections and yearly repairs.

Based on my calls to various cities and counties on the Central Coast the busiest wharves are where you'll find the closest and more frequent inspections. These have departments and staff that specifically work to keep the wharves maintained for public safety. Funding typically comes from a variety of use taxes and a portion of the lease payments from the wharves' commercial entities to the city.

The Cayucos is currently closed for repair, but is maintained by the San Luis Obispo County Parks department. The pier was largely left to the surf and weather due to a lack of maintenance funding at the county. It's going to take at least $1.3 million from several sources to refurbish damaged pilings and stringers. The county hired Shoreline Engineering in Morro Bay at a cost of $50,000 to inspect the pier and recommend repairs under the Unified Facilities Criteria from the Navy. The UFC is also used by the State Lands Commission which is charged with inspecting commercial wharves and marinas use for oil on loads and offloads in California.

Perhaps you saw the stunning I-coverage of the Gaviota State Beach pier that went down on Saturday. I spoke to Rich Roselle with the State Parks Department, he says that the Gaviota pier had not been inspected for approximately 10 years.

He says their piers are inspected every 5 to 10 years depending on it's location and that Gaviota pier was scheduled to be inspected this year. The state is speeding that up now.

As for the Avila pier that sustained damage, it's should be back open by the weekend after getting needed repairs from the Port San Luis harbor District.

Safety inspections are being done, but like everything in maintenance it's based on the funding. Cities, counties and the state are the various jurisdictions that are charged to keep up with these inspections and repairs. Unless they get the funding inspections are fewer and farther between. What are the safest wharves and piers? I'd have to say city piers along the Central Coast are more closely watched since commercial entities reside there and funding is more readily available, much more than the county piers.

If you have questions for me click the email link above and look for me Facebook, "JonKBrent KIONKCOY" and Twitter at "DearJonKBrent.".

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