By DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
For the first time in almost eight years, onshore anglers should again have access to the great fishing on the lower end of Mobile Bay this spring when the new and improved Fort Morgan Pier opens.
The renovated pier will be L-shaped dimensions of 305 feet by 210 feet and 40 feet wide. The pier floor will be 8 feet off the surface of the water at mean tide.
Actual construction on the pier started in July 2020, said Alabama Marine Resources Division Director Scott Bannon, but a variety of situations caused delays.
“We immediately ran into delays due to Covid,” Bannon said. “The purchasing of the sheet pile was delayed several months. Then Hurricane Sally came in and delayed construction. We allowed a break in the contract to repair the (ADCNR/ALEA) Alabama Point facility that was damaged during the storm. It was important for law enforcement and search and rescue access be restored. Additionally, labor shortages have been very challenging for the general contractor as well as subcontractors.
“But I think we’re on the downhill side. We anticipate an early March completion.”
Bannon said the sheet pile work has been completed as well as a portion of the concrete caps that cover the sheet pile. The old retaining wall demolition work has also been completed.
Because the new pier is located on a historic site, special rules apply to the excavation of the area, which expanded the construction timeline.
“Under the previous pier, there were some barges that were considered to be of historical significance,” Bannon said. “I believe they were placed there during World War II for a temporary pier. The fishing pier was then built around the barges. They were not in the exact position that we thought, so when the contractor was driving sheet piles and hit a piece of the barge, it required mitigation, removing those pieces and redriving the sheet piles.”
The original pier was built with timbers and held up considerably well through its 40-year lifespan, but the double whammy of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 took its toll.
“It was pretty much rendered unsafe and had to be closed in 2014,” Bannon said. “The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) and the Alabama Historical Commission worked together to pursue funding from the Deepwater Horizon settlement money through NRDA (Natural Resource Damage Assessment).”
The total cost of design, construction and oversight of the new pier was $3.2 million. ADCNR Commissioner Chris Blankenship said the reopening of the Fort Morgan Pier will fill a missing piece of outdoors recreation on the Fort Morgan peninsula.
“I am glad that the Fort Morgan Pier renovation is nearing completion,” Commissioner Blankenship said. “This project has been a long time coming. As Alabama’s Lead NRDA Trustee, it was important for us at ADCNR to get this once popular public access site back in operation after many years of it being shut down due to damage from storms and the years of being in the harsh coastal elements. It is being reconstructed in a way that should withstand the test of time and storms.
“I would like to thank Representative Steve McMillian for his unwavering support for this project and for all the good work he champions in his district in south Baldwin County. He has been a true asset for this area during his decades of public service.”