OSWEGO — Stabilization of the International Pier is moving forward and crews could start shoring up the damaged jetty as early as late February.
The International Pier overhaul is aimed at reinforcing the structure, which in recent years has been compromised by high Lake Ontario waters and flooding. City councilors tentatively approved two contracts totaling roughly $2.8 million for the stabilization project, which is the first of two phases ultimately aimed at creating a pedestrian-oriented boardwalk.
“What this project specifically does is re-stabilizes the pier,” Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow said of the contracts receiving tentative approval Monday.
Dating back to August 2019 when the project was first proposed, Barlow has called “transforming the International Pier” into a “boardwalk atmosphere” one of the city’s top waterfront priorities.
The bulk of the spending, if approved by the full council, would come from a $2.77 million contract with W.D. Malone Trucking and Excavating. The Hannibal-based contractor submitted the low bid for the stabilization work, coming in more than $300,000 lower than any other bidder.
Another contract tentatively approved Monday calls for CEG CME Engineering Group to receive $49,840 to provide geotechnical services for the project.
The full common council is expected to approve the contracts at the next meeting on Feb. 8.
Over the next two years, the pier is slated for a transformation that would see the underutilized parcel become a pedestrian-friendly attraction, which city officials have said will complement the recent and ongoing improvements to adjacent Breitbeck Park and Wright’s Landing Marina.
The first phase of the work, which involves solidifying the underground and underwater portions of the pier, could start as early as late February, Barlow said, noting “it’ll be a long project” that could be ongoing well into 2022.
“We expect ground to break in late February or early March,” Barlow said, adding the stabilization portion of the project is expected to take all of 2021. “There will be a whole lot of demolition work and then they’ll get to work on actually re-stabilizing the pier.”
Barlow said engineers used divers and underwater drones to inspect the underlying foundation of the International Pier, and determined the “pier is really unstable and probably in danger of being condemned in the next five to 10 years.” The largest and most expensive component of the stabilization project is surrounding the perimeter of the pier with new sheet piling.
Once the structure is stabilized, the city Department of Public Works (DPW) is expected to complete the surface work.
The city was awarded $12.6 million in grant funding through the state Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI), with $6.1 million slated for Wright’s Landing and $6.5 million for the International Pier. The REDI program was prompted by lakeshore flooding that devastated homeowners, businesses and municipalities in 2017 and 2019.
The city DPW is performing the Wright’s Landing improvements in-house, which Barlow said saved the city about $3.5 million, and officials are looking to move those funds to the International Pier project.
“We feel confident that will be approved, because we justified and demonstrated the need,” Barlow said. “The need at the pier is extreme because the pier itself is in such bad condition.”
If approved by the state, the city would have more than $9 million to transform the International Pier, which Barlow said would be “enough money to complete a project we can all be proud of.”
The city is still locked in an eminent domain proceeding related to the only structure on the International Pier, which was previously occupied by the Oswego Yacht Club (OYC). Eminent domain refers to the government’s power to take private property and convert it to public use, and those proceedings started after the club sued the city for terminating the lease between the parties.
Typically used for the takeover of private property for public use, in this instance the city is seeking to use eminent domain to repossess a city-owned building that was leased to a private entity. Governments are required to provide property owners with compensation when taking property via eminent domain, and the parties are seeking appraisals for the property as those proceedings continue.
Barlow previously said ousting the yacht club from the building is necessary to accomplish the goals of the city’s multi-million dollar waterfront redevelopment.