The barking, snarling and occasional spats between sea lions at Port Dock One will continue for the foreseeable future now that the Newport Port Commission has agreed to allow the transformation of a part of the dock to a tourist viewing area on the sea lions below.
But the port has been clear that Port Dock One is a working dock. If a vessel pulls up to the outside bay portion of the dock, sea lion watching may be affected or interrupted for a short time as the vessel loads or unloads cargo.
The port commission Tuesday evening authorized General Manager Don Mann to negotiate with a non-profit group of Bayfront businesses that wants to refurbish the dilapidated planks that have been “homesteaded” by the sea lions.
The water-level dock was originally installed as a transit dock where small boats could tie up to give visitors, who motor over from the South Beach Marina or other points, more convenient access to the Bayfront. The walkway idea never caught on and eventually the sea lions took over, much to the delight of tourists.
Mann said two forty foot sections of water-level refurbished docks could be installed at the expense of the non-profit group and would be maintained solely by the group at no cost to the port. Mann cautioned that even new wood would not provide a durable, long term perch for the sea lions since wood won’t hold up under the weight, frequent spats among the critters, winter waves and tidal surges. Something more sturdy like a concrete dock would likely be required, the design and configuration of which would be subject to negotiation between the port and the non-profit group. But for now, replacing what’s left of the old dock seems like a workable interim solution. The commissioners reminded Mann that the pilings the docks are anchored to are port property and will remain so.