It ‘looked like a bomb went off’

That’s how Port Washington’s city engineer described the breakwater after a storm battered the structure, undermining the walkway and smashing a bench

A NORTHEAST GALE drove towering waves into the Port Washington breakwater Saturday and Sunday, washing away a bench that was bolted to the new walkway. Waves also washed away a garbage can and large stones on the marina side of the breakwater, undermining the walkway. Photo by Bill Schanen IV
Ozaukee Press Staff

Last weekend's high winds and thundering waves pounded the Port Washington shoreline, and no where was it more evident that the city’s breakwater.

“It kind of looked like a bomb went off,” Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said Tuesday.

The stones next to the breakwater on its harbor side were cast against the shore, he said, and the concrete walkway has been undermined by the waves. 

Tossed onto shore were a metal bench, its leg broken, and a trash can that had been bolted to the walkway.

“We haven’t gotten it unburied yet,” Vanden Noven said of the trash can.

A wetland area established on shore? “That’s a lost cause is my guess,” he said.

The lighthouse-shaped collection box positioned near the entry to the breakwater  was also dislodged by the lake’s fury.

“It was damaged, but it can be repaired,” Vanden Noven said.

And a portion of the railing that was dislodged by waves earlier this year had been tied onto the rest of the railing, but the waves tore it off as well.

Crews had been scheduled to repair the railing earlier last week but ran into problems so the work had been postponed and the railing tied up, Vanden Noven noted.

“Obviously, we didn’t tie it securely enough to keep it from being thrown onto the rocks,” he said.

The lakefront looked like a shell of the handsomely appointed walkway the city has worked diligently for the past several years to upgrade and convert to an attraction.

“Naturally, we were disappointed,” Vanden Noven said, noting city officials had hoped that the amenities would withstand the force of the lake.

“As this was designed and constructed, we did express concerns about the voracity of the storms. Unfortunately, we were right about them.”

Ald. John Sigwart called the nor’easter “one of the biggest storms we’ve had in a decade.”

But, Vanden Noven said, “It’s not unheard of either. We want to make sure we’re ready for the next one.”

The city has been in contact with engineers and other representatives of Foth Infrastructure and Environment, who designed the breakwater improvements, and officials were scheduled to meet with them Wednesday to discuss the situation, Vanden Noven said.

“They’ve been very responsive to our calls and emails,” he said.

Some of the repairs seem to be somewhat obvious, he said.

“Presumably the answer (to the dislodged stones) is bigger rip rap,” Vanden Noven said. “We’re going to have to figure out how to get a base underneath (the walkway). Maybe we have to remove the site furniture each year.

“We’re going to have to see what the engineer proposes to modify the design so this doesn’t occur again.”


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Ozaukee Press

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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Port Washington, WI 53074
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