Water Street Dock opens waterfront access in Port Alberni

Erik Bowkett of Western Canada Marine Response Corporation and Shelley Chrest of the Port Alberni Port Authority board cut the ribbon to celebrate the grand opening of Water Street Dock on Thursday, Sept. 1. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)Erik Bowkett of Western Canada Marine Response Corporation and Shelley Chrest of the Port Alberni Port Authority board cut the ribbon to celebrate the grand opening of Water Street Dock on Thursday, Sept. 1. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Members of Tseshaht First Nation sing, drum and dance before the grand opening of the Water Street Dock on Thursday, Sept. 1. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)Members of Tseshaht First Nation sing, drum and dance before the grand opening of the Water Street Dock on Thursday, Sept. 1. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Deb Foxcroft and Natasha Marshall, elected councillors for Tseshaht First Nation, present a piece of artwork by Patrick Amos to Mike Carter and Shelley Chrest of the Port Alberni Port Authority. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)Deb Foxcroft and Natasha Marshall, elected councillors for Tseshaht First Nation, present a piece of artwork by Patrick Amos to Mike Carter and Shelley Chrest of the Port Alberni Port Authority. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Erik Bowkett of Western Canada Marine Response Corporation speaks to the crowd during the grand opening of Water Street Dock in Port Alberni on Thursday, Sept. 1. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)Erik Bowkett of Western Canada Marine Response Corporation speaks to the crowd during the grand opening of Water Street Dock in Port Alberni on Thursday, Sept. 1. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions speaks at the grand opening of the Water Street Dock on Thursday, Sept. 1. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions speaks at the grand opening of the Water Street Dock on Thursday, Sept. 1. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Gord Johns, MP for Courtenay-Alberni, speaks to the crowd at the grand opening of Water Street Dock on Thursday, Sept. 1. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)Gord Johns, MP for Courtenay-Alberni, speaks to the crowd at the grand opening of Water Street Dock on Thursday, Sept. 1. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Robert Watts of Tseshaht First Nation explains the history of the waterfront and Tlukwatkwuu7is (Wolf Ritual Village). (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)Robert Watts of Tseshaht First Nation explains the history of the waterfront and Tlukwatkwuu7is (Wolf Ritual Village). (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

Port Alberni residents and visitors have another way of accessing the waterfront.

A small crowd gathered at the Water Street Dock on Thursday, Sept. 1 to celebrate the grand opening of the public portion of the dock, which is located on Harbour Road behind Port Boat House.

The dock is now home to the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC), which has built a new marina on the waterfront. The oil spill response base is one of several set up on British Columbia’s west coast. The Port Alberni Port Authority (PAPA) and WCMRC signed a 25-year lease agreement in 2018 for 6.225 acres of land and waterlot areas fronting Port Alberni Harbour, including the Water Street Dock.

Port authority employees and board members also attended the grand opening on Thursday.

“We’re happy and proud to offer a little more public access to the waterfront,” said PAPA vice president of operations Mike Carter. “It’s a nice place where people can have a coffee and watch the sunset.”

Although there was already a pier over the water, “it got a revitalization,” said Carter. The existing paved surface was removed, beams and cross braces were replaced and the pier was decked with new timber. Railings were also added for public safety. Local contractors Bowerman Construction and McGill Engineering were hired for some of this work.

READ MORE: Port Alberni WCMRC team learns the spill drill

Erik Bowkett, the base operations manager for WCMRC Port Alberni, said the public access deck was part of WCMRC’s vision in Port Alberni all along. “We wanted something that everyone was going to be happy with, that will fit into the area,” he said. “This is all locally built, well-built, and it’s beautiful.”

About two-thirds of the dock will be for WCMRC’s own use, while the remaining third will be open to the public. The WCMRC portion of the dock is “very close” to being finished, said Bowkett, but the company has been dealing with some supply chain shortages. “But that’s not hampering our ability to respond to anything here,” said Bowkett. “Thankfully we don’t respond to very many spills, but we need to be able to respond.”

The team responded just a few weeks ago to a diesel spill after a fishing vessel sank near Hocking Point.

READ MORE: Fishing vessel sinks in Alberni Inlet

On Thursday, one of the WCMRC vessels could be seen in the inlet, practicing a monthly man overboard drill.

The company has three other response bases on the Island, so in the event of a large spill WCMRC would “cascade” resources and personnel in from other bases, said Bowkett.

Currently, the base in Port Alberni has 15 full-time employees, but will be up to 20 full-time employees by the time the project is finished.

The grand opening on Thursday was opened by Tseshaht First Nation, as members gathered to sing, dance and drum. Elected Councillors Deb Foxcroft and Natasha Marshall presented a gift to the port authority, while Tseshaht member Robert Watts offered an oral history of the area which used to be known as Tlukwatkwuu7is (Wolf Ritual Beach).

“I look forward to many songs here, many events that will take place here,” said Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns during the grand opening.



elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

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