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Central Coast Curious: When will the Avila Pier reopen?

KCBX News' Central Coast Curious is an ongoing series for which we invite listeners to ask questions and the newsroom reports back with answers. Since we launched the series last year, we've received several questions asking, "when will the Avila Pier reopen?" The pier is currently now open about a third of the way, but it's uncertain when the entire pier will be accessible to visitors. 

KCBX News reporter Tyler Pratt spoke with Andrea Lueker, harbor manager at the Port San Louis Harbor District, to learn more. 

TYLER PRATT, KCBX NEWS: Give us a little backstory on the pier. When was it built and what led to its closure?

ANDREA LUEKER: The pier has been in existence in one form or another since before 1908. But what happened in 2015, there were a number of whales in the harbor and there were many, many people on the pier. And someone on the harbor district staff noticed the pier swaying from one side to another pretty significantly. All piers move, but this seemed to be moving quite a bit. So after an engineering study was done on the pier, the harbor district felt the most prudent solution was to close it until further research could be done on what to do with the pier.

PRATT: What did they decide needed to be done with the pier?

LUEKER: At that time there was a review of all the piles, basically the wooden tree trunks that hold up the pier, and there were over 700 of those piles, and at least a third were pretty heavily damaged. Based on the recommendation from the engineer, the district felt that we needed to close the pier until we can do something further. So that's kind of where it stood in 2015.

PRATT: For anyone who hasn't been out there, can you describe the pier and what people enjoy doing out there?

LUEKER: I think one of the greatest things about any pier in California, or any place, is that it allows a lot of people who may not have the chance to get out over the water to do that. You can go out on the end of a pier, the middle of a pier, and you get to be on the water and if you don't do boats, or anything like that, it's a great opportunity.

PRATT: So has this pier been expensive to fix, and when can we expect it to reopen?

LUEKER: So the exciting thing is that we were working on a project to rebuild the pier, and one of the questions that came up during that time was "has there been a load capacity study done on this pier?" Which means how much can this pier actually support, based on its condition? And we hired a different firm called Moffat & Nichol—they do a lot of work up and down the state of California— and they conducted that study; their response was, "yes, there are a number of piles that are damaged, but this pier can really [hold] what it needs to with some minor fixes." I think 'minor' is relative, based on the estimate of about $15 million dollars to replace the entire pier.

PRATT: Pismo Beach just had their pier retrofitted, with a multi-multimillion dollar price tag. Are we seeing a trend in the state, of the piers across the coast needing upgrades after all these years?

LUEKER: That's a great question. You know, it kind of depends on what happens—what kind of storms you have. A brand new pier could go down tomorrow in a horrific storm. In the early 1980s, there were some pretty significant storms and then many piers, including Avila Pier, were substantially rebuilt after that time period. So they're all about the same age. We saw similar thing with Cayucos Pier a few years ago.

PRATT: When do you think Avila Pier will reopen?

LUEKER: It appears that with some pretty minor corrections and repairs and maintenance, we can open up the pier [about half way]. Then there's some further work that needs to be done to open up the pier the rest of the way, and we're currently working on estimates for those costs. We should have something more concrete by April or May in terms of how to get the pier open the rest of the way for public access.

You can submit a Central Coast Curious question, or vote on the next question we’ll answer, at www.kcbx.org.

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