Graham Kilmer

Port Gets $1.25 Million for Winter Storm Repairs

State grant would address damage incurred this past winter.

By - Sep 10th, 2020 07:28 pm
Isolda docks in Milwaukee. Photo by Jack Fennimore.

Isolda docks in Milwaukee. File photo by Jack Fennimore.

Milwaukee’s port is getting $1.25 million in emergency grant funding from the state to make repairs caused by the severe winter storms.

In January, Milwaukee’s shoreline was battered by powerful storms that caused millions in damage. Historically high water levels caused swells to crash over the dock walls and break walls causing flooding. Approximately 60 percent of the 467-acre port was flooded. In some parts, the water was six feet deep.

At one point, all the major roads in the port were flooded, causing the companies that operate out of the port to temporarily suspend operations. Vessels that were scheduled to come into the port were delayed two days.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) announced Thursday that the port would receive more than $1 million from the Harbor Assistance Program to make flooding related repairs.

“This grant will not only help Port Milwaukee repair the storm damage, but also help protect the Port from the ongoing threat posed by historic high water on Lake Michigan,” Governor Tony Evers said in a statement.

The grant funds are being used to make repairs to port terminals, dock walls and cargo storage areas. It will also pay for new paving on piers and dock walls to prevent ongoing degradation. And it will pay to repair flood-damaged fences, crash barriers and gates. Eighty percent of the costs for these repairs will be covered under the grants.

Milwaukee’s port, under new director Adam Tindall-Schlicht, has been experiencing a resurgence in recent years. Traffic through the port was up in 2019, with the port handling more cargo than both its five- and ten-year averages. As of March, the port was already handling 27 percent more cargo than it had at that time in 2019. 

WisDOT Secretary-Designee Craig Thompson called the port a “vital transportation asset” and said the grant funds will “preserve and grow” the resource for years to come.

In recent years, the port has also experienced a boom in passenger traffic. Before the pandemic hit, ships were expected to make 14 stops in the port, bringing 4,000 visitors to Milwaukee.

Evers said repair to the port was “especially important given the port’s pending agricultural export projects.”

The port has plans for an agricultural export facility that would be the first on the great lakes. The $31.4 million facility would export an ethanol manufacturing by-product that is used to feed livestock across the world.

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