The Herald News, Friday, December 15, 2017 – Page A1

By Kevin O’Connor

Fall River — The depth of the hard work done 150 years ago by the builders of the City Pier is becoming apparent.

That depth is more than 32 feet, according to Ken Fiola, the executive vice president of the Bristol County EDC.

Deep water is sending project planners at the pier back to the drawing board.

Bristol County EDC is overseeing the project to prepare the City Pier for a new life, as the site for a marina, restaurant and possibly a marine store.

The pier was built in the mid-1800s, when the city was an industrial powerhouse and the goods produced moved by ship. The pier was built by manpower and the granite blocks used to support the piers hauled in by oxen.

Those workers were more serious about the project than current day engineers realized.

Contractors are now driving heavy steel sheets into the river bottom around the pier. It will allow builders to raise the level of the pier, encapsulating the contaminants discovered in the soil in 2002.

“We are having some difficulty getting the sheet piling to grab the hard pan under the river,” Fiola said. “We are still investigating, to see how far we will have to go.

“Our pilings are 32 feet. They are not enough for the northwest corner.”

The hard pan is the condensed layer under the river, silt and soil that the pressure of two glaciers compacted until it became stone.

“We’ll do some test borings to determine what we need to do,” Fiola said. The problem is limited to the northwest finger of the 4-acre pier. That is the spot that would have been dredged the deepest when the pier was under construction. The larger, ocean going ships would require the deeper channel.

The city’s Redevelopment Authority owns the City Pier. Once the property is ready for development, the RDA will issue a call for developers to offer proposals for it.

The pier is on the waterfront and classified as reclaimed tidal land. Because of that, state law requires that any use for it must be marine related, Fiola said.

The original estimate was that the work on the pier would be complete by October. That timeline was pushed back earlier this year to install new storm water outflow pipes under the pier as part of the city’s improvements of its sewer and storm water system. City officials say there were no plans to begin marketing the site until the state announces its plans to rebuild the section of Route 79 that passes by the pier.