UCSD and the UC Board of Regents have finalized plans to replace the Nimitz Marine Facility wharf at the Point Loma peninsula, a project set to cost $25 million.
The UCSD Scripps Institution of Oceanography uses the nearly six-acre compound as the home base for four of its research vessels, capable of performing a wide range of administrative, technical and maintenance tasks. The Nimitz Marine Facility also hosts visiting ships from science institutions around the country as time and space permits, as well as the U.S. Navy’s Floating Instrument Platform, a manned spar buoy designed for oceanographic research. According to Scripps, the finger pier is 110 meters long while the quay wall is 85 meters long and can service up to seven vessels at a time.
However, the pier has seriously deteriorated with age. At the current rate, heavy machinery and trucks will no longer be able to safely operate on the structure, as it can only support 20 percent of its original weight capacity. The Nimitz Marine Facility must resort to hiring shore-based cranes with a longer reach to load equipment and supplies onto the ocean-going vessels.
“I was on the job for maybe six months at the time, and I decided to take a walk underneath the pier […] and I was shocked,” Scripps Associate Director Bruce Appelgate said. “The facility was designed to last 40 to 50 years, and we had reached the engineering lifespan of the structure. There was exposed rebar and cracks in some of the support members. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to figure out the extent of the damage and what the cheapest way to keep operating was.”
Bids from construction firms will be selected within the next month, with the project expected to proceed on April 1. According to a Feb. 16 Los Angeles Times article, the docks will be demolished and rebuilt close to its current dimensions — albeit slightly higher to account for rising sea levels — in about 18 months. In the meantime, Scripps will likely use other wharves around San Diego to temporarily service its fleet.
The money for the project comes from a variety of sources. About half is funded by the UC system and a state waterways grant, while the rest comes from private agencies, like the Office of Naval Research.
“Our mission is to make it possible for scientists to have unencumbered access to the sea and to do it safely,” Appelgate said. “The [renovations] will restore our ability to do what we do best. It’s critical that we do this now and have a new pier that will last us another 50 years.”
The Nimitz Marine Facility assists with continual experiments in underwater acoustics, radar and environmental observation. Since 1905, Scripps itself has also hosted a wide range of investigative and educational programs focused not only on San Diego but at research centers around the world.