Sidney explores public-private partnership for iconic Beacon Wharf

The private company pitching to sell Sidney the last piece of an old floating bridge as a potential replacement for Beacon Wharf could end up with a direct stake in the project.

The committee overseeing the future of the Sidney wharf is recommending the municipality invite Seagate Pontoons to submit a formal proposal for a potential public-private partnership to replace the iconic but aging wharf following the committee’s last meeting on Jan. 6.

Members of the Beacon Wharf Select Committee unanimously agreed to the recommendation that emerged out of a subcommittee tasked with investigating potential public-private partnerships around the pending replacement. 

Members of that sub-committee include Sidney’s chief administrative officer Randy Humble, who told committee members that the company would come forward with a proposal following some “very, very preliminary” discussions.

The wharf is approaching the end of its life – within 10 years – and four broad options have emerged for its future: replacement with a rock base; replacement with a piled structure; replacement with a floating structure; and no replacement at all. 

Several factors including replacement costs, environmental concerns including rising sea levels, the future of businesses operating on the wharf and the wharf’s place in Sidney’s viewscape, are to shape any future choice.

Seagate Pontoons owns the last remaining pontoon (the so-called N-Pontoon) of the eastern half of the concrete floating pontoon bridge running across Washington state’s Hood Canal.

The public heard from staff late last year that an inspection by Sidney’s consultant SNC-Lavelin found “no show-stoppers” in using the pontoon as a replacement for the wharf, a point that also extends to potential environmental impacts. The public heard that the pontoon could be accessible for smaller boats and accommodate a building for commercial purposes as is the case now on the existing wharf.

A report circulated among committee members pegs the potential maximum cost for a floating structure at $6.5 million. By comparison, a piled structure could cost $10 million. It would cost about $2 million to remove the wharf at the end of its useful life, followed by enhancements to the waterfront.

Coun. Sara Duncan captured this economic consideration in her comments. “Knowing that Seagate Pontoons is kind of the cheapest option that we have evaluated (and can accommodate commercial buildings)…how much do we want to keep evaluating what might be even more expensive options when the cheapest option was viable and got us what we needed?”

Several committee members including Humble and Coun. Peter Wainwright stressed that the municipality is under no obligation to enter any partnership with Seagate Pontoons once it presents its proposal. Alison Verhagen, senior manager of long-range planning, said receiving a proposal from the company now would help the municipality assess its options later. This said, the public also heard from Humble that Sidney would “have to give up something to attract a 3P component and it has to make financial sense to them as well.”

Several days after the committee meeting, the public heard during Monday’s council meeting that public engagement around the future of Beacon Wharf is still months away.

“We are thinking that the public engagement is probably not going to happen until March at the earliest, maybe April, May,” said Wainwright. “We still have quite a bit of work to do until the information package can go out.”


Source: Saanichnews