‘It needs to get done’: Deerfield Beach pier getting upgrades after facing Nicole’s wrath in 2022

Deerfield Beach’s International Fishing Pier, a signature tourist attraction that lures crowds of sightseers, beachgoers and anglers, is in line for improvements after it sustained storm surge from Hurricane Nicole last year.

It is among the piers in South Florida that were marred by the storm last year as it made landfall near Vero Beach. The east coast experienced strong winds and storm surge as Nicole raged toward the northwest in November 2022.

Deerfield’s pier has remained partially closed since then. Now, the city on Tuesday plans to address a plan to spend as much as $3.2 million with Brothers’ Construction for the structural repair of the pier.

A review confirmed that powerful waves generated by Nicole’s high wind speed damaged sections of the pier. According to an engineering report, there was “extensive wood deck decay of supporting members directly under the deck and over the existing concrete beams, allowing for the deck attachment to fail with a minimal uplift load.

“Also, the connectors of the secondary wood members to the primary concrete beams were constructed poorly, causing members to dislocate and fail at the connection.”

Tuesday also marks the deadline for the public to take an online survey, which asks residents to vote among three options for the pier’s future, including whether the railings should be metal or wood. Two of the enhanced options could raise the price tag further, said city spokesman David Hunt.

The project is budgeted at $4.5 million, Hunt said, and the work is expected to start in the spring and last for a year.

Deerfield Beach Commissioner Ben Preston said he’s going to push for the wood option, since he worries metal railings would become too hot in the Florida sun, and become conductors of electricity.

Loosened nails in a beam underneath Deerfield Beach Pier are shown on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023. (Amy Beth Bennett / South Florida Sun Sentinel)n
Loosened nails in a beam remain underneath the Deerfield Beach pier on Wednesday. The pier is facing repairs and improvements after sustaining storm damage last year. (Amy Beth Bennett / South Florida Sun Sentinel)

“Somebody touches it, they’re going to feel it,” he said. And it’s not uncommon for an angler to “get stuck out there and all of a sudden a storm rolls in with lightning and you can find yourself in a tough situation.”

Preston has gone to the pier for 30 years: “I fish every chance,” he said. That includes pulling up snapper, pompano, kingfish, mackerel and cobia. “You can bring home dinner, I’ve done it many times,” he said.

So he’s eager to get it back open to the public who go there for the fish, the view and the relaxation. “It’s been awhile, it needs to get done,” he said.

But Deerfield Beach’s pier wasn’t the only one damaged by the wrath of Nicole last year.

In Lake Worth Beach, a shade covering attached to poles on the William O. Lockhart Pier blew off during Nicole. The city is still seeking to get that replaced through federal funds, said spokesman Ben Kerr. The pier structure itself was not damaged and was not closed to the public.

In Pompano Beach, the Fisher Family Pier was closed for two days after Nicole, sustaining minor damage to the sails, which are the blue shade structures, said spokeswoman Sandra King.

And although Hurricane Nicole made landfall on North Hutchinson Island just south of Vero Beach, the night before a large mid-section of Anglin’s Pier disappeared in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. The owner said there had been a “colossal wave of over 25 feet and had high tide at that time.”

The historic Anglin’s Pier extends nearly 1,000 feet into the Atlantic from the end of Commercial Boulevard. The end portion had already been damaged by Hurricane Irma and was closed to the public at the time. “We were in repair at the end of the pier. It was like a double whammy,” said owner Spiro Marchelos.

The privately owned pier, which opened in 1963 and is named for Melvin Anglin, the town’s first mayor, was once open around the clock to fishing aficionados and others. Today it remains closed, more than a year after the storm.

On Wednesday, Marchelos said he is still winding through Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, state and federal approvals for the permits for the refurbishments, and said inflation to pay for the materials for the work is also slowing him down. The process is slow, including underground surveys that were hampered by weather.

Lisa J. Huriash can be reached at lhuriash@sunsentinel.com. Follow on X, formerly Twitter, @LisaHuriash

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