A portion of the aging causeway at the East Mooring Basin collapsed on Tuesday afternoon, sending debris into the water and knocking out power for boats and navigation lights.
The Port of Astoria closed the causeway in 2018 because of a severely rotting substructure. The span was used by fishermen and other boat owners to access their vessels and was a popular place to get close-up views of sea lions that take over sections of the docks.
“We’ll probably know more in the next couple of days, but right now, the main thing is, obviously, it’s fortunate that there were no people involved in terms of injuries or casualties,” said Will Isom, the Port’s executive director.
The collapse caused damage to a breaker box, which took out power that supplies boats and the navigation lights on the breakwater.
“The next step is A — we need to figure out a plan to restore some power back to the boat tenants down there, and then B — working with Bergerson Construction to get a plan together for getting that debris out of the water,” said Isom, who said the collapse occurred on the northernmost portion of the causeway.
Shelley von Colditz, who lives along the riverfront near the East Mooring Basin, said she heard a loud noise and looked out toward the causeway when it collapsed.
“It was the strangest sound ever,” von Colditz said. “It sounded big. It sounded very destructive. The only thing that came to mind right away was maybe a boat hit it. But it was too loud for one of these boats.”
The state had urged the Port to shut down the causeway after inspectors found rotting timber pilings and other problems.
A fence was installed at the base of the causeway at 36th Street near the Astoria Riverwalk to keep people off the span. Locals and visitors now gather along the riverbank to watch sea lions. Fishermen and other boat owners have had to fashion workarounds to get to their slips.
The East Mooring Basin was originally built after World War II. The causeway extends to a breakwater on the Columbia River constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Both the Port and the city hope to improve the marina for redevelopment.
The Port has struggled to keep up with deferred maintenance and other infrastructure challenges along the waterfront. Some materials meant for fixing part of the causeway were purchased in 2019, but layoffs to the maintenance staff during the coronavirus pandemic stymied that process.
The Port is looking at a grant proposal to the state for a portion of the cost to rehabilitate the causeway.
“We have been in the process of trying to secure grant funding in order to rehab the causeway and just have not quite gotten there yet, both from a financing standpoint as well as a permitting standpoint,” Isom said.