Dock failure leads to closure


By Meg Olson

One month after the long-awaited dock went in at Lighthouse Marine Park, it has been closed due to structural damage and there is no timeline to reopen it.

Rod Lamb, design and development supervisor for Whatcom County Parks and Recreation said while there were moderate winds and a wind wave on July 15 and 16, it should not have been enough to damage the floating dock. “I think it was a design problem,” Lamb said. “Yes, wind waves caused the damage but I believe it would still have happened with a smaller wave.”

The damage, discovered July 16, occurred to the last float section before the final wide pair. Two of the four wave attenuation chambers, large aluminum compartments that contact the ground as the tide drops, were found broken off. “It was a material failure,” Lamb said. “The aluminum simply broke off. We don’t know why.”

Lamb said the county had asked the engineering firm on the project, KPFF Consulting Engineers, to prepare a report on the failure. “They will probably find solutions,” he said. “There will be some conversations between the contractor, the dock manufacturer and our consulting engineers.”

A preliminary report from contractor HB Hansen stated the design specifications were to withstand a 1-meter wave at an interval of five seconds – a significantly higher sea than what damaged the dock. “We don’t think it was the wind wave that caused this. There are a bunch of parameters but it was designed to withstand more,” Lamb said.

There is no timeline to get the dock repaired and open again, Lamb said, but the parks department is determined to fast track a fix after the many delays getting the dock in. “In a word, unfortunate,” he said. “We’ll work really hard to get it repaired and back in service.”

County council member Barbara Brenner and local taxpayers association member Mark Robbins have both encouraged parks staff to get some answers quickly.

“Given the irony and potential public relations problems associated with this unfortunate turn of events – waiting six years to get a new dock and having it fail the first month in service – I just want to encourage everyone at the county level to be completely transparent, honest, accurate and thorough in communicating with the Point Roberts community,” Robbins said. “After six years’ waiting for our new dock, folks really want to know what went wrong and how it can be fixed.”

The Point Roberts Taxpayers Association has been a strong advocate for a new dock since the 16-year-old wooden floating dock at the park failed six years ago, with no funds set aside to replace it. “This is one of the most vital recreational assets on the Point, both for our tourism economy and residents’ enjoyment,” Robbins said.

  1. Engineering failure. The aluminum tubing of the of the dock is very thin-wall. In my opinion, the load factor on the structure during wave action at the shoreline even during the summer months, was under-estimated.

  2. The aluminum tubing was too thin for the stress load. Somebody screwed up.


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