By Tim Collins
The controversial construction project for the much debated international marina on the Songhees has finally begun in Victoria’s harbour. The project, nearly eight years in the making, has been the subject of protests, project revisions and spirited debate between supporters and those in opposition to the entire concept.
Now, with revisions made, plans approved, protests exhausted and construction finally underway, it’s the physical nature of the site causing the latest delay, according to Craig Norris, CEO of Community Marine Concepts, the company overseeing the marina’s construction.
“About 10 of the piles required for the first building and six of the piles for the second have to be drilled into rock, but our first effort found what we call ‘unconsolidated material’ on the site,” said Norris.
In layman’s language, it means the fill originally deposited at the site was not solidly compacted and now, when the drill passes from rock into air pockets and back into rock, the drill equipment and the piles are subjected to a tremendous amount of torque.
“We got one pile in, but upon reviewing the situation we’ve had to call for a larger piece of equipment to complete the drilling,” said Craig.
Once the drilling is complete, the remaining piles for the two buildings on the site will be placed through the more traditional method in which the piles are simply pounded into the soil. Similarly, the piles for the water portions of the marina will be pounded in with a bit of a different approach and yet more specialized equipment.
“It’s all pretty complex, and truthfully, you never know what you’re going to run into when you start sinking piles. There’s an old saying that ‘every hole is a test hole’,” said Craig.
There is an expectation for the project to proceed quickly once the piles are in place, with pads being installed and building and wharf construction seeing completion by late spring. The two buildings on site will have a total of 3,600 square metres and include a high end restaurant and a spa, both open to the general public.
A grand opening is planned for late June and the marina will be open for the summer season in time to see the first of the larger yachts entering the harbour by the July long weekend.
Craig maintains that the project will have a substantial economic impact on the city, citing an earlier estimate of $260 million in annual benefit arising from the opening in Victoria, which is fast becoming a preferred cruising corridor for international yachts.
Opponents of the project continue their criticism, citing obstructed and unsafe access to and from the harbour for human powered crafts (notably kayaks) and obstructed views of the harbour due to the size of the yachts.
Craig understands the resistance to change and the love of the harbour in its current configuration, but believes most of the project’s opponents will find their concerns addressed through the design changes and considerations made by the project’s developers during what he points out was a long and detailed approval process.