Port officials reaffirm decision to conduct tests at Upper Lake Park in effort to combat erosion problem
Port Washington officials last week reiterated their intention to conduct soil borings on the Upper Lake Park bluff in a continuing attempt to find a way to stabilize the hillside.
But the decision to spend $17,117 to hire Wisconsin Testing Labs was not without controversy.
The city’s two newest aldermen, who were not in office when the testing was initially approved last year, questioned the decision.
Ald. Kevin Rudser said he agreed with the project last year, but after attending a conference on bluff stabilization, he changed his mind.
“I’m not sure it’s worth spending the money,” he said. “The lake is going to take what the lake is going to take.”
Ald. Bill Driscoll concurred, saying he has done a significant amount of research into the issue.
“What I’ve found is a whole lot of stuff that doesn’t work,” he said.
But other officials said the borings will provide the city with information needed to make a final decision on a bluff stabilization plan.
“I think this is something we need to do,” Ald. Dan Becker said. “We have to do this to find out where our problems are.
“At the very least, we will get more information to help us decide where to go from here.”
Ald. Mike Ehrlich agreed, saying, “This is the first step to find out how we stabilize the bluff. This will give us the information we need to make a decision.”
The council approved the borings last summer after learning about a wick system that could be used to draw water from the bluff.
The Common Council agreed to hire Giles Engineering — which submitted the lower of two bids — to do the work at a cost of $14,880 but delayed the project until this year because of budget concerns.
In the meantime, the city received a $7,440 Wisconsin Coastal Management grant to pay for half the cost.
But officials said Giles Engineering never provided the necessary proof of insurance to the city, so they approached Wisconsin Testing Labs to do the work.
The company will conduct two soil borings to a depth of about 110 feet and install piezometers to determine the levels of groundwater in the bluff. The results would be analyzed by the firm, which would also make recommendations on various stabilization measures, such as installing drain wicks and cutting back the bluff.
The slumping bluff has plagued the city and beach-goers for decades. In the 1980s and ’90s, it wasn’t uncommon for large portions of the bluff to collapse.
In April 1993, a huge mudslide moved tons of earth down the side of the bluff and across the beach, leaving a mound of clay-like earth roughly 12 feet high.
Bluff stabilization has been a popular topic for years. In 2001, the city commissioned a bluff study by JJR, a firm that specializes in waterfront projects.
The controversial plan proposed by the group called for cutting back the bluff significantly, as well as constructing breakwaters and revetments to protect the base of the bluff at a cost of $4.3 million.
The plan was doomed not just because of the high pricetag but also because many people feared it would require trimming the size of Upper Lake Park too much and destroy the beach below.