High wa­ter won’t drown Pier 8 plan

Wa­ter­front tower de­signs will con­sider all sce­nar­ios

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW VAN DONGEN

A swelling Lake On­tario is ap­proach­ing 100-year haz­ard lev­els that would leave parts of Hamil­ton’s planned $500-mil­lion pier re­de­vel­op­ment prone to flood­ing.

But en­vi­ron­men­tal and devel­op­ment ex­perts say even to­day’s record lake lev­els — the high­est in a cen­tury — would not en­dan­ger the con­dos or town­homes built atop a graded pier af­ter 2018. Flood­ing is on the minds of Hamil­to­ni­ans, par­tic­u­larly those liv­ing near the wa­ter, with large sec­tions of the har­bourfront trail sub­merged this spring and dozens of low-ly­ing beach strip base­ments filling with creep­ing lake wa­ter.

Coun­cil is poised to sign off next week on a draft plan of sub­di­vi­sion for a 1,500-unit condo devel­op­ment on Pier 8, de­spite con­cerns raised by some

res­i­dents and busi­nesses about odour and noise from the in­dus­trial wa­ter­front. Some res­i­dents have also con­tacted The Spec­ta­tor to ask about flood­ing risk.

The city’s decade-old plan to re­vamp the west har­bour has al­ways ac­knowl­edged the need to im­prove ag­ing in­fra­struc­ture, shore walls and break­wa­ters, said wa­ter­front project point per­son Chris Phillips. That work is al­ready un­der­way.

“But the re­al­ity is we aren’t the only com­mu­nity build­ing on the wa­ter­front and we’re ab­so­lutely build­ing to meet the lat­est de­sign stan­dards needed for the site,” he said. “This year’s high wa­ter lev­els have no bear­ing on our abil­ity to meet those guide­lines.”

The city’s own con­sul­tant, Shore­plan En­gi­neer­ing, pro­duced a re­port on the pro­posed devel­op­ment call­ing the prospect for “wave over­top­ping” of the pier walls at record storm lev­els “sig­nif­i­cant, but man­age­able.”

The Hamil­ton Con­ser­va­tion Au­thor­ity also sup­ports the re­de­vel­op­ment, not­ing the draft plan of sub­di­vi­sion shows build­ings at a grade well above the 100-year flood haz­ard level of 76 me­tres (as of this week, the lake level had reached 75.8 me­tres) and higher still than the ad­di­tional ex­pected height of “wave up­rush” dur­ing a ma­jor storm.

Those num­bers re­flect his­tor­i­cal lake level trends. The city’s own west har­bour study ac­knowl­edges cli­mate change must be fac­tored into fu­ture build­ing de­ci­sions on the wa­ter, but it also notes a “gen­eral con­sen­sus” Lake On­tario lev­els will drop in fu­ture.

The reg­u­la­tory agency does call, how­ever, for fu­ture tech­ni­cal stud­ies and more de­tails on how a de­vel­oper will pro­tect “open space” ar­eas of the pier more prone to flood­ing. It rec­om­mends as well more study of flood pro­tec­tion on low-ly­ing Pier 6, the cur­rent ma­rine unit area.

At the mo­ment, the ma­rine unit build­ing is start­ing to look like an is­land, with wa­ter lap­ping at the build­ing walls and ve­hi­cles parked in a par­tially sub­merged drive­way.

Po­lice spokesper­son Const. Asuf Khokhar said the fa­cil­ity is “at the mercy of mother na­ture,” but still us­able. “We are hav­ing some bal­last put into place to pre­vent dam­age to the boats, and con­tinue to mon­i­tor the sit­u­a­tion closely,” he said Thurs­day.

Some day, that semisub­merged ma­rine unit area is sup­posed to form part of an ar­ti­sanal vil­lage on the wa­ter to serve a hoped-for Pier 8 pop­u­la­tion of thou­sands. The build­ing and parts of the po­lice ma­rine pier date back more than 50 years and are no longer up to stan­dard, Phillips said.

That’s just one of the rea­sons the city em­barked on a $16-mil­lion shore­line re­vamp that started last year and will con­tinue through­out 2017. The more ro­bust, rocky shore­line and new board­walk are al­ready on dis­play along parts of Pier 7.

So is a new $5-mil­lion float­ing break­wa­ter de­signed to take the stormy edge off wave ac­tion near the busy ma­rina west of Pier 8.

Any build­ings even­tu­ally con­structed on Pier 8 — which is largely com­posed of steel, con­crete and fill — will need to be built on pil­ings driven down to bedrock be­neath the wa­ter. Un­der­ground park­ing will also be un­likely — un­less a de­vel­oper wanted to spend big on the com­plex en­gi­neer­ing re­quired to wa­ter­proof a garage be­low the wa­ter ta­ble.

The city will have to sign off on the fi­nal site plan be­fore any­thing new is built on the pier, which al­ready hosts the Wa­ter­front Trust’s Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre, restau­rants and rink. The city is seek­ing re­quests for qual­i­fi­ca­tions from de­vel­op­ers for the pier now, with hopes of see­ing shov­els in the ground for a first round of devel­op­ment in 2018.

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