Port officials agree to help fund professor’s project that will monitor lakeshore water conditions, bluff erosion
Port Washington officials, determined to improve lakefront safety, recently approved spending $2,500 to help fund a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor’s study of rip currents along the city’s lakeshore.
The project, which will include both educational and informational components, will also look at the erosion of the city’s bluffs, Mayor Tom Mlada said.
“This is a very exciting opportunity for our city,” Mlada said, noting Professor Chin Wu worked extensively with Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon on its bluff stabilization project and was instrumental in creating an Integrated Nowcast and Forecast System (Infos) website at the Apostle Islands that provides a wealth of real-time information on currents.
“He felt the technology he put in place at the Apostle Islands could be very appropriate and functional here,” Mlada said.
Wu’s proposed Port Washington project largely revolves around development of an Infos website for the city that would involve monitoring water conditions, modeling them and predicting how they affect the currents, Mlada said.
“It’s largely educational,” he said, noting the website could be accessed by the public and provide information on currents that would make the lakefront a safer place.
“Can we ever make the lakefront entirely safe? No. But if you give people the information they need to make informed decisions, then we have gone a long way in making it a safer place.”
The project is expected to cost $60,000, half of which Wu is attempting to obtain through a Wisconsin Coastal Management Grant, Mlada said. The city funding is a portion of the matching funds he needs to raise.
“This is our way of saying we support this work,” Mlada said.
Ozaukee County has also committed $2,500 in staff support for the project, he said.
If Wu doesn’t raise the needed funding, the city will get its $2,500 back, Mlada noted.
The website is already up with limited information on it, Mlada said, so funds would go primarily toward the purchase of the equipment needed to report, monitor and predict wave and current movement.
“Without the monitoring buoys in the area, you really can’t have these real-time predictions,” he said.
Wu’s project would be put in place on the north beach initially, Mlada said, and perhaps expanded to the south beach over time.
“This would be a great tool for people,” Mlada said. “People thinking about going to the beach could check the conditions and determine whether the conditions are right.”
In addition, information gathered through the bluff erosion portion of the study could give the city the tools it needs to help plan bluff stabilization projects — something city officials have considered for years, officials said.
The project, which was recommended by the city’s Environmental Planning Committee, isn’t being funded through tax dollars, Mlada noted. The committee received an anonymous $10,000 donation to help with its projects, and this is one of three recommended for funding.
The others are applying for a Bird City USA designation, which would cost $100, and funding a portion of an intern’s time to study issues the committee deems important, which would cost an estimated $2,600.