Port council opts for less expensive breakwater fix

Officials reject elevated walkway plan in favor of cheaper walkway cap

The early morning sun highlighted the Port Washington breakwater. Photo by Bill Schanen IV
Ozaukee Press staff

The idea of installing an elevated metal walkway on the far eastern end of the Port Washington breakwater to complete repairs to the structure was rejected by the Common Council on Tuesday.

Instead, aldermen agreed to install a prefabricated concrete plank cap on the existing walkway, saying that would not only be a less costly option but also one that will better resist the impact of waves and ice.

“This should be there for 30 to 40 years if it’s maintained,” Brian Hinrichs, lead environmental scientist for Foth Infrastructure and Environment, the city’s breakwater consultant, said.

The 10-inch-thick concrete planks would be grouted on the existing cap and other repairs made to the breakwater as part of the project, which Hinrichs said would cost $1.3 million to $2.7 million.

The elevated walkway, which Hinrichs said is a viable option, would cost significantly more. The cost of the steel alone would likely be in excess of $2 million, he said.

Hinrichs said he would ask the Army Corps of Engineers to consider the new cap a repair to the breakwater, something that would make the federal government responsible for future maintenance of the structure.

If the city had opted to build the elevated walkway, that would have been the city’s responsibility, he added.

Hinrichs also told aldermen that if the city installs handrails along that stretch of the breakwater, it will be responsible for maintaining them.

“If a storm or ice damage them, the city will be responsible for repairing them,” Hinrichs said.

Ald. Mike Gasper successfully argued the city should forego the handrails.

“I don’t think anything we put out there is going to survive,” he said.

Hinrichs said the high lake levels have been causing issues all along the Lake Michigan coast, calling them “historic, unprecedented lake levels.”

“We don’t see these going away anytime in the next 10 years,” he said, noting they will batter structures like the breakwater in the future.

Hinrichs said the Army Corps of Engineers will install additional armor stone along the breakwater in the next two to three years.

Gasper also questioned whether spalling on the sides of the existing cap would be repaired as part of the project. 

When the new cap is installed, steel armor walls will be added, Hinrichs said, noting they will be the form for the concrete and also serve to shore up the structure.

The cost of the breakwater repairs is the biggest issue left to be decided. The city has received a $550,000 grant for the work and is expected to borrow matching funds.

That leaves a shortfall of as much as $500,000, Hinrichs said. He recommended the city seek a $500,000 Harbor Assistance Fund grant to cover that.

The grant application is due in August.

“I’m confident we’ll be successful at $250,000 to $300,000, but we’ll ask for $500,000,” he said.

Aldermen agreed to apply for the grant and also to seek a six-month extension on the $550,000 grant the city’s already been awarded. That grant would otherwise expire at the end of June.

“I can’t see any reason why they wouldn’t give you the extension since you’ve started the process (of designing the repairs),” Hinrichs said.


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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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