Ottawa will pay for a complete renovation of the Digby Wharf, West Nova MP Greg Kerr said Thursday.

“The value of this package is in excess of $7.6 million. Final costs will come in after the engineering is completed,” Kerr said.

The repair and renovation of the wharf is critical to the well-being of the local economy, he said.

“The Digby Harbour Port Association has been instrumental in managing the harbour in recent years and the government of Canada is proud to support their continuing work.” There are no other funding partners, Kerr said.

The project was approved by cabinet and money will come from multiple sources within the federal government.

“We’re meeting with engineers on Tuesday,” said Reg Hazelton, the port association’s board chairman.

Construction is expected to take 20 months.

Some of the work will include a new breakwater. A section of wharf on the inner harbour side will be demolished and replaced with floating docks, which will allow more boats to tie up, said Hazelton.

Port manager Jeff Sunderland said the Digby Port Association has come a long way in the past 4 1/2 years.

The association took over the wharf following eight years of private ownership after Transport Canada divested itself of the structure in 1999.

“Even prior to divestiture, the wharf had not undergone much maintenance, and by 2007 there were a number of serious problems to be dealt with immediately,” said Sunderland.

Ottawa supplied $3 million for repairs just a few months after the non-profit association took ownership.

Some much-needed repairs done then helped instill a sense of pride among users, Sunderland said.

“It is now a clean, safe and secure place to operate from.”

But a 2010 storm damaged the wharf and the association was again scrambling. Ottawa then gave $250,000 for repairs.

“The wharf continues to be a busy place,” said Sunderland.

Scallop and lobster fleets account for about 65 boats.

Lobster boats fish in two different districts, which results in lobster activity for 9 1/2 months of the year. Scallop fleets are active year-round.

The association purchased the wharf for $1.2 million in December 2007, with help from Ottawa in securing loans to be repaid over 15 years.

The town and rural municipality of Digby also gave $50,000 each to help the new owners. The wharf had been owned previously by the private Maritime Harbours Society, which purchased it for a dollar in 1999.

The federal government also gave $3 million to the private owner in 1999 to help with upkeep. Fishermen soon complained that the wharf was falling apart, with little repair work being done.

Story by: Brian Medel
The Halifax Chronicle Herald
July 12, 2012