When completed, the Fort Morgan Pier will be L-shaped with a concrete platform 8 feet off the water. (David Rainer photo)
For the first time in almost eight years, onshore anglers in Alabama should again have access to the excellent fishing on the lower end of Mobile Bay later this spring when the new and improved Fort Morgan Pier opens.
The renovated pier will have L-shaped dimensions of 305 ft. by 210 ft. and a 40-ft.-width. Its floor will be 8 ft. off the surface of the water at mean tide.
Construction on the pier started in July 2020, said Alabama Marine Resources Division Director Scott Bannon, but a variety of issues arose that caused setbacks in its progress.
"We immediately ran into delays due to COVID," he explained in a Jan. 6 article in Outdoor Alabama. "The purchasing of the sheet pile was delayed several months, then Hurricane Sally came in and [stopped] construction, [so] we allowed a break in the contract to repair the Alabama Point facility that was damaged during the storm."
Outdoor Alabama is an online resource maintained by the Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (ADCNR).
Bannon added that restoring law enforcement and search and rescue access following the hurricane also had to be done before work could resume. Additionally, he said the general contracting company and its subs had to deal with "challenging labor shortages" to get the pier rebuilt.
"But I think we're on the downhill side," he told Outdoor Alabama. "We anticipate an early March completion."
Bannon said the sheet pile work has since been completed and a portion of the concrete caps that cover the sheet pile. The old retaining wall demolition work also has been finished.
The total cost of design, construction and oversight of the new pier was $3.2 million.
Old Pier Has Withstood Harsh Gulf Weather
Because the new Fort Morgan Pier is located on a historic site, special rules apply to the excavation of the area, which also expanded the construction timeline.
"Under the previous pier, there were some barges considered to be of historical significance," Bannon noted. "I believe they were placed there during World War II for a temporary pier. The fishing pier was then built around the barges. They were not in the exact position that we thought, so when the contractor was driving sheet piles and hit a piece of a barge, it required mitigation, removing those pieces and redriving the sheet piles."
The original pier was built with timbers and held up extremely well throughout its 40-year lifespan, but the double whammy of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 took its toll on the structure.
"It was pretty much rendered unsafe and had to be closed in 2014," Bannon said. "The ADCNR and the Alabama Historical Commission worked together to pursue funding from the Deepwater Horizon settlement money through Natural Resource Damage Assessment [NRDA]."
New Pier to Protect Adjacent Boat Ramp
Bannon said the upgraded Fort Morgan Pier will serve dual purposes by offering a fishing venue and serving as a seawall for the adjoining boat ramp and basin.
"We worked very hard to develop a design that we felt would withstand the majority of weather anomalies and hurricanes we experience here on the Alabama coast," he added. "That is why we went with steel sheet pile with a concrete platform. The railings are made of cables. It also will be ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliant. It will have a much better parking area for all the anglers and at the boat ramp."
Bannon noted that the new Fort Morgan Pier is not only a beautiful place to fish but provides protection for the boat basin and ramp. The old seawall had deteriorated enough, he said, to allow sedimentation to rapidly build up during Hurricane Sally in September 2020, but crews were able to dredge that material for use as fill at the pier, rather than having to truck it in.
The new structure is designed to help prevent some of that sedimentation in the future.
Pier Will Again Be a Popular Spot for Anglers
ADCNR Commissioner Chris Blankenship noted that the reopening of the Fort Morgan Pier will fill a missing piece of outdoor recreation on the Fort Morgan peninsula.
"I am glad that the Fort Morgan Pier renovation is nearing completion," he said in the Outdoor Alabama article. "This project has been a long time coming. As Alabama's lead NRDA trustee, it was important for us at ADCNR to get this once popular public access site back in operation after many years of it being shut down due to damage from storms and the years of being in the harsh coastal elements. It is being reconstructed in a way that should withstand the test of time and storms."
That's good news for anglers, who will soon have access to the abundant inshore species that inhabit the mouth of Mobile Bay, including red drum (redfish), speckled trout and flounder.
"That area on the Fort Morgan peninsula is known for flounder fishing," Bannon said. "Later in the year, the flounder migrate through that area to go out into the Gulf of Mexico. That's why we have the November flounder closure, to protect those fish on their way to spawn. That is a shallow, sandy area that the fish like."
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