Sunday, October 7, 2012

Your ship has sailed . . .

Another in the seemingly unending stream of harebrained letters hit the paper today, floating the fantasy that the city could be better served by a fixed link crossing in place of a new Johnson St. Bridge.
One premise of the letter is that the bridge lifts only for the occasional sailboat to pass through the channel.  Quite the contrary, an active and vibrant shipyard continues to operate at Point Hope and it will be a surprise to some how large some of the ships are that get pulled onto land via a marine railway that cost no small sum for the owners of the shipyard.  They’ve added a few spurs so that numbers of vessels can be anchored in the yard for repairs and maintenance. 
Many are much too large to fit under the existing bridge of course, and federal regulations would require a clearance of some 185 feet for a fixed link over navigable waters.  Even were those regulations to be tweaked to accommodate local conditions, the idea of a fixed span is unworkable if not nonsensical, and would require the alienation from productive use of great swaths of land downtown and in Vic West, eviscerating any of the imagined cost savings proposed by such a foolhardy project. 
Point Hope is already one of, if not the largest single taxpayer in the city, and choking off their business would be compounded by the disappearance of many smaller businesses that would have to be razed to fit in ramps and other infrastructure to facilitate a fixed link in support of the “free flow” of traffic the writer is desperate to pursue.
The shipyard is at a most perfect location for their operations and those others that will continue to suggest the city just move them out of the centre to a location more convenient to their myopia know nothing about how Point Hope operates let alone the next phase of their planned growth.  A graving dock that would allow them to work on larger vessels, perhaps even new construction, would fit nicely into the harbourfront and, in contrast to the complaints of some, contain some of the noisier operations with a more sheltered facility.
The graving dock plan, by the way, emerged after the referendum on the new bridge, even before a new federal shipbuilding program was announced, and has required some of the scope changes for the new bridge mischaracterized as a runaway budget by critics masquerading as media.
Point Hope has been a shipyard for almost 150 years, employs hundreds of skilled tradespeople and supports hundreds of other small businesses in the city.  It is a huge asset to our local economy in so many ways and, with their more ambitious plans, will employ some hundreds more, pumping more dollars into a city treasury that faces revenue challenges most of us are familiar with. 
Barring the predations of new councillors who imagine that they have a better idea for the use of the land, or want to promote more punitive strategies for dollar extraction from the shipyard business, Point Hope has a promising future that includes many more ships larger than the limited imaginations of commentators who continue to dredge up ideas I thought were scuttled long ago.


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