Breakwater partnership pays off   « Back

Author: Kristyn Halbig-Ziehm
Source: Ozaukee Press

Apr. 20, 2016

Army Corps, city officials praise collaboration as ‘model program’ for upgrading Great Lakes harbors

The partnership between the City of Port Washington and the Army Corps of Engineers in rehabilitating the north breakwater is a model for the future, Lt. Col. Mike Sellers said last week as a crew preparing to begin the most recent phase of construction set up in the Breakwaterharbor.

“This is truly a model program,” said Sellers, Detroit district commander for the Army Corps. “This is how we can get things done in the Great Lakes, especially in small harbors.”

That’s because there’s a limited number of federal dollars available to repair a great deal of infrastructure — something that’s not unique to Port Washington or the Great Lakes, Sellers said.

“There is a lot of infrastructure nationwide that needs repair,” he said.

The partnership between Port and the Army Corps has meant a combination of city and federal funds, as well as grant money, has gone to pay for needed repairs to the deteriorating breakwater.

The city had tried in vain for years to get the Army Corps of Engineers to repair the structure, which is owned by the federal government.

In 2014, with the help of former U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, the Corps of Engineers allocated $950,000 to begin the work and that summer armor stone was placed along much of the structure to protect it from the crashing waves that strike it during rough weather.

“You can see how that’s already doing great things,” Sellers said.

Since then, the city has raised more than $1.6 million in grants and spent a significant amount of local funds for the repairs as well.

The Army Corps repair crew is working to make structural repairs to the steel cell section of the breakwater, removing the concrete cap, reinforcing the foundation and then adding a new walkway.

“The cap itself is in dire need of repair,” Sellers said.

When the repairs are completed, he said, they should last for 25 to 50 years.

“Given the time and money it takes to repair these things, we want them to last,” Sellers said.

The crew working on the project is based in Kewaunee, he said. The crew will average 10 men who will work eight days on and four to six days off on the Port project, which is to be done by July 3.

“They are truly good at what they do,” Sellers said of the crew. “I like to see them do good projects, like the one in Port Washington.”

The crew enjoys working in Port Washington, Sellers added.

When the work on the steel cell section of the breakwater is completed, the breakwater will be open for about a month. Then, work will begin on the gateway to the structure, making it a handicapped accessible facility with a fishing platform and other amenities.

The second phase of the gateway project will be done next year, officials said.

When that is completed, there will still be one major portion of the breakwater needing repairs — the portion east of the steel cell section that leads to the lighthouse.

Recently, Mayor Tom Mlada sent the Corps of Engineers a letter asking it to allocate $2 million to $3 million for that work.

Even if the Corps allocates only half of that, Mlada said, “it will keep us going, and we can leverage that.”

Sellers said his office will continue to support the city’s request for additional funds to complete the repairs.

“We’re going to continue to support the project and submit the budget,” he said, adding the Corps would also like to place more armor stone along portions of the breakwater.

“I think the outlook is good for Port Washington to get the funding eventually,” he said. “I just don’t know when.

“I wish I could tell you it’s going to be next year. I’d love to do it.”

There are some promising signs, he said, noting that this year the Corps received extra funding from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for work on seven other breakwaters — projects that will be contracted to private crews since the schedule for the Corps’ crew is already full.

That’s the first time in 10 years he’s seen that occur, Sellers said.

“I was very excited to get that extra funding,’ he said. “Hopefully that trend continues.”

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