BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — The state’s Seaport Advisory Council has approved $4 million to build an extension to the Salem Wharf and to complete most of the planned improvements at the Blaney Street landing.
The funds will be used for a number of projects, including renovations to the coal ship dock at Salem Harbor Station, which the city plans to use for cruise ships, and construction of a harborwalk around the Blaney Street site.
“This is transformational,” said Mayor Kim Driscoll, who sits on the state council that oversees harbor improvements. “We’re really grateful to the governor and former lieutenant governor who have really made investing in our port a priority.
“Eight years ago, we didn’t (own) a ferry, we didn’t own the land and we didn’t have a pier. And in that time period, we’ve been able to transform something that was on the drawing board and make it a reality.”
The Salem Wharf at the Blaney Street landing, currently the dock for the Salem Ferry, will also be used by commercial boats, cruise ships and other vessels. At present, it also has an interim ferry terminal and patio.
This latest grant will allow the city to construct a 140-foot extension to the 260-foot Salem Wharf, which was completed this year. Eventually, as the final piece of the pier project, a T-shaped extension will be added to what will then be a steel and concrete pier projecting 400 feet into the harbor.
As part of this project, a “wave fence” will be constructed under the pier to protect commercial boats and other users of the city wharf.
The coal dock, an 800-foot, deep-water pier owned by Footprint Power, will be made “pedestrian friendly” and also accessible to the disabled, according to Kathy Winn, deputy director of the Planning Department.
The city is in talks with Footprint about co-managing the pier, which would be used by medium-sized cruise ships. The city also plans to build a walkway from the power plant dock to the Salem Ferry dock.
The city is still seeking permits for the Footprint project.
In addition, Salem plans to use the funds to do the final paving, landscaping and lighting on the Blaney Street lot, and to build a harborwalk over a recently completed seawall. The harborwalk, which will have benches and lighting, will become the main pathway for pedestrians going and coming to the landing, an official said.
“It’s also a nice amenity for neighbors,” said Winn. “It just provides better access” to the waterfront.
The city plans to build a commercial marina with slips and floats in an inner tidal area next to the pier. It will be a protected area that could be used in the winter and other months by fishing boats, officials said.
Most of the work covered by this grant has been permitted, according to Winn. She said the city hopes to put out bids this winter and start construction on some of the work by the spring.
“We’ve always had this rich maritime history,” Driscoll said. “This new investment will enable us to recreate that vibrant harbor port.”
On Thursday, the Seaport Advisory Council also awarded $5.6 million for seawall reconstruction in Gloucester and $50,000 for a Bass River dredging project in Beverly.
Tom Dalton can be reached at email@example.com.