Ferry Division advances piling replacement project - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Ferry Division advances piling replacement project

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The Southport-Fort Fisher ferry terminals will be under construction this year. The Southport-Fort Fisher ferry terminals will be under construction this year.

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) – The Southport-Fort Fisher ferry terminals will be under construction this year.

Wooden pylons, called dolphins, near the boat's docking station will be replaced sooner than originally planned.

The current structures are nearing the end of their viable life span, so the plan is to replace them now rather than to have one fail and force a temporary shutdown of the route.

The dolphins are made from about 15, 12 inch pylons of salt-treated wood that are 55 feet long, placed around a metal tube and wrapped with a metal band.

The work begins by removing the metal bands around each pylon, and then a crane barge removes each individual pylon.

If any of the pylons break while being removed, officials must go in and pull it out, because they cannot leave any section of pylon at the bottom of the river.

The dolphins are used to guide ferries into the traffic ramps and keep them in place while the ferries are parked between runs. This comes in especially handy in windy conditions.

Tim Hass, a spokesperson for the state Ferry Division, says they decided to move this project up in an effort to be proactive rather than reactive.

"If a brittle dolphin were to break while a ferry was coming in or going out, it could damage the boat and/or damage the ramp," said Hass. "If a boat were damaged enough, it would have to be repaired, which would take it out of service on that route. If a ramp were to get damaged, the entire route would have to be shut down until the ramp was fixed. There would also be a danger that a portion of a damaged pylon could break free and float down the river, creating a hazard to other ships in the area."

The project will cost about $1 million and right now there is no set timetable for doing the work. However, officials hope to begin in the fall of 2014.

It will take roughly three months on each side, depending on the condition of the pylons.

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