A long-awaited study that will determine the future of Saint John's Partridge Island is now underway and expected to be completed by the end of July, officials said on Thursday.

Saint John MP Rodney Weston

Saint John MP Rodney Weston says he is pleased Dillon Consulting and W.F. Baird & Associates Coastal Engineering Ltd. are studying the prospect of restoring access to Partridge Island and rebuilding the national historic site as a tourism destination. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

Last year, the federal government set aside $200,000 in the budget for a feasibility study on whether the island could be opened to tourists.

Dillon Consulting and W.F Baird & Associates Coastal Engineering Ltd., have since been awarded the contract, Saint John MP Rodney Weston announced on behalf of ACOA Minister Rob Moore.

The companies will look at access to the island and estimate the cost of repairing the breakwater and establishing a walkway that connects the island to the mainland, he said.

They will also estimate the annual operation and maintenance costs to providing public access to the island.

Hydrographic survey done

A hydrographic survey was already conducted on Wednesday, in partnership with the port, said Darcy Harris, a partner at Dillon Consulting.

The physical assessment of the breakwater will start next week, he said.

"The third process is we'll actually be flying a drone over the breakwater to kind of get a 3D analysis of its configuration. So that all leads into the data collection, which would then move into building a model," said Harris.

"Once we have the physical background for the model, we would then run scenarios to understand wave analysis, what types of forces are going to be acting on the breakwater, how high the wave heights could potentially be.

"At that point we will understand what the limitations are of the breakwater and at that point we can kind of move forward with options on either improving and building on to the breakwater, or reconfiguring it into an access route."

'Access is going to give people a real appreciation of the history of that site … and give you an idea of what immigrants would have seen after they arrived here throughout the 19th and the early 20th centuries.' - Gary Hughes, New Brunswick Museum

If the study comes up with a feasible option, the next step would be working with the three levels of government to secure funding for the design phase and construction, he said.

New Brunswick Museum history and technology curator Gary Hughes hopes the study will see the national historic site opened to visitors.

"That access is going to give people a real appreciation of the history of that site … and give you an idea of what immigrants would have seen after they arrived here throughout the 19th and the early 20th centuries," he said, referring to Partridge Island being established as a quarantine station in 1830.

Up to 2,500 people were quarantined there with small pox and typhus fever during the peak of the Irish immigration. Over the past two centuries, the island has also served as a military post for soldiers and home to lighthouse keepers.

Access to the island has been prohibited for decades, but city officials have talked about opening it back up for years.

In 2005, Saint John Waterfront Development put together designs of what the island could look like.