The White Rock Pier after a Year: Rebuilding Canada’s Longest Pier 

It was a day no one in White Rock would forget.

The afternoon of Dec. 20, 2018, a violent windstorm pummelled White Rock’s Semiahmoo Bay with 90 to 100-kilometre-an-hour winds. Canada’s longest pier, a wooden structure built in 1914, was torn in half, and winds tossed damaged boats, trees, wood planks and other debris onto the shoreline.

White Rock wind storm 2018 - broken pier helicopter rescue- photo credit: Aaron Hinks, Peace Arch N

Strong winds, dramatic rescue

Environment Canada had issued a wind warning on Dec. 20 at 12:25 p.m., with gusts from 70 to 90 kilometres an hour developing in the morning and reaching 100 kilometres an hour in the afternoon.

Power outages, wind damage, injuries and a related death were reported in southwest B.C.   

At 2:31 p.m. that day, the White Rock detachment of the RCMP announced that they were responding to an emergency at the White Rock Pier. Part of the pier had broken off, leaving one person stranded.

The dramatic rescue was a success. The man, dangling from a Royal Canadian Air Force helicopter above choppy waters during the rescue, created an iconic image of the storm.

Cleaning up after the storm

BC Hydro described the Dec. 20, 2018, storm as “the most damaging” in BC Hydro’s history.

On the streets of White Rock, trees had fallen, bringing down wires, including live wires. On the Waterfront, the Pier was extensively damaged along its length, as well as at the break location, and the Promenade suffered significant damage.

For safety reasons, access to the Promenade west of the White Rock (P’Quals) was restricted following the storm. Storm debris along the beach and adjacent to the Pier presented potential hazards to the public. 

Concrete picnic tables were destroyed, logs were pushed through chain-link fences into the railway ballast and the shoreline was severely eroded. 

Logs, sunken boats and marine debris littered the shoreline near the White Rock and Pier and damage was caused to the tree lights along the entire Waterfront.

The City of White Rock worked with emergency partners, including White Rock Fire Rescue, BC Hydro, FortisBC and the BNSF Railway on the cleanup. With the BNSF, the City removed 60 truckloads of logs and debris.

White Rock Pier - reconstruction progress

Rebuilding the Pier and Waterfront

Both the East Beach and West Beach needed restoration. The City replaced storm-damaged picnic tables, benches, lawns, irrigation, tree lights and walkways, restored the beach and replaced the rip-rap.

With insurance proceeds, money from reserves and $1 million of provincial funding, the City hired expert contractors to reconstruct the Pier and construction began in May 2019.

The updated Promenade reopened in July 2019, featuring a stamped asphalt walkway, lawns, benches and picnic tables.

The Pier was reconstructed with a new, high-quality mid-section designed by a marine engineer, delivered within budget and on time—even ahead of schedule—when it opened in August 2019.

Reopening the Pier

The White Rock Pier reopened to the public on Aug. 27, 2019 with a countdown by the Mayor and members of Council and an informal race to be the first to reach the end of the Pier.

 With greetings from the Provincial Government, Friends of the Pier and a blessing by the Semiahmoo First Nation, the White Rock Pier officially reopened on Sept. 21, 2019.

White Rock Pier on a sunny day with the ocean tide in.

The Pier in the Future

Although the White Rock Pier has reopened, there is still work to be done to ensure that future generations can enjoy the Pier.

Businesses rallied together to raise money for the next important part of the Pier reconstruction: making the older sections sturdier, weather-proof and ready to meet the conditions of a changing world climate.

The City of White Rock is grateful to the Friends of the Pier. This group of community leaders has held fundraising campaigns that include Concerts for the Pier, Dancing for the Pier, Chefs for the Pier, Beers for the Pier, Prints for the Pier and Planks for the Pier.

One year after the major storm split White Rock’s cherished Pier in half, the City of White Rock is focused on the future, and how to prepare the Pier for the next century.

Be a Friend of the Pier

Do you want to become a part of the White Rock Pier’s future? Find out how you can be part of the legacy by visiting www.friendsofthepier.com