Army Corps of Engineers scheduled to begin work that will include use of six vessels to haul, place stone
A crew from the Army Corps of Engineers is expected to arrive in Port Washington Saturday to begin repairs to the breakwater.
Jim Bonetti of the Corps of Engineers said last week that six vessels — a crane barge, two tugs and three flat scows — will be in Port for the project. They will dock along Coal Dock Park when crews aren’t working.
The tugs will shuttle stone from Manitowoc to Port Washington for the work, he said.
Crews plan to place 1,700 individual stones along the east end of the breakwater to shore it up, Bonetti said — a total of 12,000 tons of rock.
Each stone weighs between six tons and eight tons, he noted.
Crews will work eight days, then have six days off, Bonetti added.
There will be times when the breakwater is barricaded and people will be prohibited from walking on it, Bonetti said.
“We don’t mind people watching what we’re doing. It’s your money at work,” he said, but crews want to keep spectators safe while the work is being done.
On weekends, he said, crews will work on the east end of the breakwater so tourists and residents can use as much of the structure as possible.
The project is estimated to last until Aug. 27, he said. While most of that time will be spent working on the north breakwater, which leads to the lighthouse, if there is time, crews will also do some work on the south breakwater, Bonetti said.
“It’s very exciting and fulfilling, after all our work, to have them come in and get going,” Port Mayor Tom Mlada said. “It’s not going to all be done in one season, but once you start to see work getting done, I think it will be a boon to the city.”
Bonetti, who spoke at a public information meeting about the breakwater, said that he and other officials from the Army Corps were shocked at the rate of deterioration last year when they inspected the structure.
“This is probably the worst harbor in terms of the rate of deterioration,” he said. “We do see aggressive deterioration.”
That’s due to not only the wave action that occurs day and night, but also to the freeze-thaw cycle that breaks apart stone and concrete, Bonetti said.
As surprised as he was by the condition of the breakwater, Bonetti said, he was equally surprised by how quickly the Corps found funding to stabilize the structure.
Generally, it takes three to five years for funding to be approved, he said.
The $950,000 allocated for the project isn’t a huge amount of money, he warned.
“That sounds like a lot of money, but in marine construction it’s not,” Bonetti said.
That’s one reason the armor stone will only be placed on the lake side of the breakwater, officials have said.
Mlada said that one of the biggest misconceptions about the breakwater project is that people believe a new breakwater is being built.
That, he said, would cost $16 million.
“We’re not going to get a new breakwater. We’re going to get some work done immediately,” Mlada said.
Brian Hinrichs of Foth Infrastructure and Environment, the city’s consultant, said the city has applied for several grants — a $566,000 stewardship grant from the Department of Natural Resources; a $500,000 grant from the Department of Transportation’s Recreational Boating Fund and $500,000 from the Department of Administration’s community development block grant program.
The city should know on Aug. 6 if it will receive the recreational boating grant, Hinrichs said. It will likely receive word on the other grants sometime in August.
The city will also apply for other grants to help finance the work, which will include widening the path for pedestrians and adding handrails — at least on the west end — making the breakwater handicapped accessible and building a fishing platform.
While work needs to be done on the east end of the breakwater as well, there isn’t a lot of grant money available for that purpose, Hinrichs said.
“That’s phase three,” he said. “I don’t want anyone to have the impression everything will be fixed in 2014 and 2015.”
Mlada said the city is working hard to obtain the needed funds to fully repair and improve the breakwater, and it plans to leverage the Army Corps funding to get grants from state and local agencies to do this.
“Our goal is to use no city money,” he said.
Mlada said he’s heard many people say the city has raised all the money it needs — and that’s another misconception.
“We need to continue working on this,” he said.