Post Hurricane Construction: The Rebuild of a Research Center’s Marina
March 16, 2021
After a devastating hurricane made landfall over Texas in 2017, the University of Texas, Marine Science Institute underwent a total renovation and modernization to rebuild what was destroyed and better serve its students and research efforts. The Institute’s leadership had a vision of a new marina that was modern, uniform, innovative, and would provide greater protection against increasingly severe natural disasters in the Gulf of Mexico and Bellingham Marine’s team provided an approach to the project with a site-specific plan.
For two weeks at the end of August 2017 Hurricane Harvey, a massive category 4 hurricane, made landfall in Texas three times in six days. As the storm made its way to shore from Gulf of Mexico, the University of Texas, Marine Science Institute (UTMSI) was caught directly in its devastating path. UTMSI, located in Port Aransas, Texas, was founded in 1941 with a mission to expand and advance knowledge of coastal and blue-water ocean areas through research, education, and outreach programs. Its main campus is situated on over seventy acres of beach-front property, purposefully positioned in the mouth of the Aransas Channel next to the Gulf of Mexico. UTMSI has a five-acre marina basin which provides access for their research vessels to both the Gulf of Mexico and bay systems. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey UTMSI suffered considerable damage to its costal infrastructure and damaged the tidal basin on which the institute relies heavily for its research.
Although much of the property was affected by the storm, the majority of the damage occurred to the existing seawall and timber fixed docks systems. After the damage was assessed UTMSI set out to both repair and replace sections of the marina’s infrastructure and rebuild the entirety of the harbor’s marina. The university’s management determined that a total renovation and modernization of the harbor was necessary to better serve its students and research efforts. UTMSI began the process to find a partner to take on this project and became acquainted with Bellingham Marine though a renovation project that was ongoing in the City of Port Aransas Marina just a half mile away. University representatives were impressed with the product, delivery, and construction provided by Bellingham at the nearby project and initially engaged BMI to provide consultation, a review of the marina’s layout and to assist with coordination between the landside and waterside infrastructure while collaborating with the design engineer. However, it was quickly determined that Bellingham was the most qualified firm to lead the project and was contracted to lead both the design and rebuild of all waterside facilities.
In the aftermath of the hurricane, UTMSI focused on redesigning the facility to withstand high winds, in the hopes that the new marina could better endure future storms. UTMSI’s facility was built to the same standards as its neighboring city marina, incorporating design elements that would withstand up to 130 mph wind speeds and up to an 8’ storm surge. The upgraded marina features concrete Unifloat dock system that utilizes FRP rod technology. The RFP rods are rust and corrosion resistant and provide superior longevity to stainless steel, especially in environments with high salinity that are found in the surrounding waters. The docks are designed for vessels ranging from 25 to 60 lineal feet, and the 25-foot slips incorporate a uniquely designed floating boat lift specially for saltwater. The lift aids in mitigating requirements for additional pilings for fixed mounted boat lifts.
In addition to servicing the research center, the marina is also home to many private vessels. To allow for improved accessibility in the redesign, Bellingham ensured that ADA gangways were constructed from the seawall to the floating dock level, with further accommodation for access to the research vessel including a raised ramp and platform for ADA access.
The Institute’s leadership had a vision of a new marina that was modern, uniform, innovative, and would provide greater protection against increasingly severe natural disasters in the Gulf of Mexico, and Bellingham Marine’s team provided an approach to the project with a site-specific plan that was quickly designed and implemented with the resulting renovation completing construction within 10 months of contract signing.