The Kennebunkport Planning Board has set a public hearing on a proposed major renovation project for Cape Porpoise pier for 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 4. Courtesy photo

KENNEBUNKPORT – A public hearing on proposed renovations to Cape Porpoise pier has been set for Wednesday, May 4 at 32 North St.

And while there is still a lot to be accomplished, the U.S. Economic Development Administration announced Tuesday afternoon that it had awarded $2.2 million to Kennebunkport for reconstruction of the pier, and municipal officials are hopeful construction will start in November.

The planning board set the date for a public hearing at their April 20 site plan review meeting, where they heard specifics about the renovation project from engineering consultants engaged by the town.

About 55 commercial fishermen use Cape Porpoise pier. It is the largest commercial harbor between Portland and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

According to a report by the engineering firm GEI Consultants, pier landings include 705 tons of cargo annually, which works out to $9 million to $11 million in annual commerce.

Town Manager Laurie Smith said she and others are hopeful bids will come in at around $2.9 million.


“The town has about $700,000 in reserve funds (and) we have received word that Maine Department of Transportation is approving $250,000 in small harbor improvement funds in 2022 and $250,000 in 2023,” said Smith in an email. She said she added about $100,000 into the proposed municipal budget for the coming fiscal year as a contingency.

“Our plan is to go through the planning board process, put the project out to bid and then start construction in November 2022,” said Smith. “The construction timeline is, of course, dependent upon the bid prices.”

Improvements include repair, replacement and reconstruction of the main pier substructure and granite bulkhead; widening of the existing south portion to improve landside access and available workspace; and replacement of  steep and aging gangways and the float system on the north side. It includes adding new floats and a handicapped accessible gangway on the south side; demolition and replacement of the existing bait shed and harbormaster’s office with a flood resistant, code complaint and energy efficient structure, and utility upgrades that include fuel, power, sewer, water, and lighting, according to an overview of the project.

A rehabilitation of Cape Porpoise pier has been in the planning stages for several years. Now, municipal officials are hopeful construction could commence in November. A public hearing on the proposal has been set for May 4 by the planning board. Tammy Wells photo

GEI Consultants civil engineer Barney Baker told the board that the project is a repair and renovation – not an expansion.

“There are elements (of the pier) that are in tough shape,” said Baker. He said the work includes bringing the pier up to code, widening a section so vehicles can move past each other; separating pedestrians from vehicles, and replacing the bait shed, among other improvements.

“It is very old and has foundation problems,” said Baker of the bait shed. He said the current refrigeration system is old and inefficient, and the lowest floor of the building is below base flood elevations.


“The bait shed sits on an old granite sea wall that is kind of coming apart and butts up to a timber pier that was last rehabilitated the 1970s or 1980s,” Baker said. “The superstructure of the pier is in great condition, but the substructure is not in good condition.”

According to the GEI Consultants report, the pier superstructure was last renovated in 1998. Engineers traced deterioration to the sea wall under the bait shed and main pier to storm damage in March 2018. Because of additional settling, the town authorized $90,000 in remedial repairs in March 2021 to temporarily stabilize the sea wall to allow the facility to remain operational until the rehabilitation project moves forward.

The bait shed will sport solar panels on the roof.

The new harbormaster’s office will be elevated to a second story and the office will include a bathroom – the current office does not have one.

Baker told the board there would be no change in the current use of the pier.

In addition to municipal and utility approvals, the project requires permits from the Maine Fire Marshal’s Office and the Department of Environmental Protection. A permit from the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands for submerged lands has been received and a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit is in process.


Board member Nina Perlmutter asked whether the floats could be constructed of wood or composite materials. Baker said the floats will be treated wood construction but that the wood does not touch the water- the floats are held up by plastic flotation drums.

“They do well and last a long time,” said Baker, and can be re-decked if need be.

Baker said the rehabilitation is designed to last 50 years and considers existing exposures and  2070 sea level rise projections outlined in the 2020 Maine Climate Council Scientific and Technical Subcommittee Report.

According to the report, the rehabilitation will be phased, for uninterrupted use. The work window for in-water construction if Nov. 1 to May 1.  Construction activity will be phased to maintain at least two fishing boats at the pier adjacent to the hoist at any time during construction, and there will be provisions for temporary refrigerated bait storage.

Board member Edward Francis asked if there would be increases in traffic, and if the pier would be busier.

Smith said mooring space is a limiting factor. “To be a pier member you need a mooring, and we’re at the maximum,” she said.

Fishermen have been consulted and have had input into the project, Baker said. Also, there have been public meetings – and more upcoming, including the May 4  public hearing.

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