History of the Piers


  • The piers consist of timber cribs filled with rock and a concrete mass on top.
    – The original concrete decks were added in the 1900s
    – The West Pier is 600m and the East Pier is 700m
  • The Piers were originally constructed in 1840s as the northern terminus of the Second Welland Canal.
  • The channel was made deeper for the Third Welland Canal and the piers were likely rebuilt in the 1870s.
  • Since 1990/1991, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has spent close to $2 million at Port Dalhousie.
    • This includes approximately $1.5 million between 1992 and 1994 to address major structural deficiencies that had been identified further to a comprehensive condition assessment.
  • Various concrete deck repairs and rehabilitations have also taken place over the past 30 years


April 2015

  • In the interest of public safety, sections of the East and West piers at the Port Dalhousie Harbour are closed to vessel, vehicular and pedestrian traffic by the DFO.


West Pier:

  • A barricade prohibiting pedestrian access is erected approximately 250m from the shore.
  • Vehicle access and mooring for vessels is limited until further notice.

East Pier:

  • A barricade prohibiting pedestrian access is erected starting at the lighthouse.
  • Vehicle access and mooring for vessels is limited until further notice.
  • The decision to limit access to the Piers was made by the DFO following the receipt of a Condition and Structural Evaluation report that was commissioned in late 2014. The Report recommends the restrictions based on evidence of substantial damage to the substructure of the Piers.

May 2015

  • A side-scan sonar survey of the East and West Piers is completed and reveals further degradation to the substructure than initially anticipated.
  • The DFO receives a Repair Analysis Report, which outlines three possible methodologies to remediate the piers.
  • Temporary repair options are explored, but none could be completed in a manner that ensures public safety.

Fall/Winter 2015

  • A hydraulic analysis on the impact of all the rehabilitation methodologies is completed and determines that all are feasible.
  • The DFO contracted an engineering investigation on the remainder of its infrastructure in the river system, which recommends:
    • Restricting vehicular access within six metres of the walls of the Lakeside Park Wharf and Southwest Wall, and
    • Repairing the East Concrete Wall, which supports the fueling station operated by the Port Dalhousie Yacht Club.

February/ March 2016

  • The DFO hosts briefings for local media and City staff that outline:
    • The barricaded portions of both the east and west piers will remain closed to the public as long as they pose a safety risk.
    • The results of the hydraulic study.
    • The results of the engineering investigation on the remainder of the site, including recommendations.

May 2016

  • The DFO hosts a public open house to advise the public on the status of the Port Dalhousie Small Craft Harbour, including a detailed explanation of the three repair methodologies.

June and July 2016

  • City staff performs public consultations – online and in-person – to determine the public’s vision for the future of the piers.
  • Consultations were held from June 28 until July 17.
  • More than 1,100 surveys were completed over this span.

September 2016

  • Staff report is prepared outlining the City’s preferred repair options for the Port Dalhousie Piers.

April 2017

  • Due to high water levels temporary fencing is installed along the east and west piers.

May 2017

  • The Department of Fisheries and Oceans supplies the City with detailed design drawings and cost estimates for the east and west piers and inner harbour.
  • To prepare for the future rehabilitation of the piers Fisheries and Oceans Canada states it will commence an environmental review of the proposed detailed design for the restoration of the piers and inner harbour structures.
  • The Department of Fisheries and Oceans informs the City of its interest to
    divest itself of the piers. City Council receives information about the divestiture process during an in-camera session at the May 29 City Council meeting.

September 2017

  • Temporary fencing installed along the east and west piers is removed.

October 2017

  • St. Catharines City Council passes motion reaffirming interest to negotiate transfer of ownership and responsibility of the piers from the DFO, contingent on funding for repairs.

February 2018

  • The 2018 Federal Budget includes funding for the Port Dalhousie Piers.
  • “Budget 2018 proposes to provide $250 million on a cash basis over two years, starting in 2018–19, to Fisheries and Oceans Canada to renew its network of small craft harbours and work with municipalities where investments and divestitures can enhance local communities. Budget 2018 investments allow the Government to support… Rehabilitating the east and west piers of Port Dalhousie in St. Catharines, Ontario.”
  • View the entire 2018 Federal Budget. Information on the Port Dalhousie Piers can be found on page 121 of the Budget PDF document.
  • Note: The 2018 budget has been tabled but not passed at this time.
  • City staff will continue to work with Fisheries and Oceans Canada on plans for the funding, repairs and re-opening of the piers as safely and quickly as possible.
  • Updates on the re-opening of the piers will be shared as information becomes available.

June 2018

  • Fish biologists and technicians from Fisheries and Oceans Canada will conduct  electrofishing at the Port Dalhousie Small Craft Harbour to look for the presence of American Eel – a species of fish identified as “endangered” under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. Work will be done the week of June 4, 2018.
  • Electrofishing is a frequently-used scientific survey method used to determine the presence and abundance of fish populations. Fish are temporarily stunned, at which point Fisheries and Oceans Canada staff will observe the fish in the area and take measurements, if necessary. There is no permanent harm done to the fish as they are only stunned for a few seconds.
  • Completing this work will allow Fisheries and Oceans Canada time and ability to factor mitigation, if necessary, into the plans to rehabilitate the Piers.

July 2018

  • City Council directed staff to advise the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Small Craft Harbours, that the City is willing to accept ownership of the Port Dalhousie Piers and Harbour assets once they’ve been rehabilitated and a mutually acceptable divestiture agreement has been negotiated.
  • Council also directed staff to negotiate an appropriate restrictive covenant to be included in the transfer of the surface lands, that will ensure that the lands shall continue to be for public use and enjoyment as park, harbour, open space and associated uses.
  • Council also endorsed the establishment of a reserve fund for future maintenance and rehabilitation works or improvements and that $100,000 a year be considered for funding the reserve.

September 2018

  • As part of ongoing efforts to rehabilitate the Port Dalhousie Piers, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Small Craft Harbour’s (DFO) Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences will be conducting an American eel trapping survey operation to determine the best method for capturing and safely relocating the animals during the rehabilitation of the Piers.
  • Researchers will be set up “eel pots” in the inner eel pots_PortDalharbour and will use food bait to lure the eels into the pots.
  • In June, an electrofishing operation successfully confirmed that the inner and outer harbours at Port Dalhousie are home to American eel – a species of fish identified as “endangered” under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. Completing this trapping survey now will allow us to plan for the safe capture and temporary relocation of American eels prior to the beginning of the piers’ rehabilitation.
  • The DFO will also begin drilling for soil samples near the piers as part of its ongoing environmental data collection of the project. The collected samples will help the DFO better understand the characteristics of the soil and enable quick design changes, if needed, during construction.
  • The drilling will not interfere with the eel pot locations or the trapping survey.

December 2018

  • The contract to repair the Port Dalhousie Piers is awarded and construction will begin in early 2019.

  • The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, announced that Bronte Construction of Oakville, Ontario, has been awarded a $26.3M contract to restore the piers.
  • Bronte Construction began mobilization work at the site Monday, Dec. 17.
  • Construction will start in early 2019, and be completed by March 2021.
  • The Port Dalhousie piers will be divested to the City of St. Catharines once repairs are complete.