Graham Kilmer
MKE County

South Shore Breakwater Could Be Partially Repaired This Year

County looking for a contractor to repair 2020 storm damage. Feds rejected FEMA aid.

By - Feb 24th, 2023 08:04 pm

South Shore Park Breakwater. Photo by Graham Kilmer 2019.

Milwaukee County has begun looking for a contractor that can make emergency repairs to a section of the South Shore Park Breakwater.

In 2020, winter storms pounded Milwaukee’s Lake Michigan coastline causing millions of dollars in damage. The storms were declared a disaster by the federal government, making repairs eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding and the South Shore Park breakwater was one piece of infrastructure that Milwaukee County Parks sought funding to repair. But FEMA denied the request, leaving the county to fund the project on its own.

Long lines of heavy stone create the three breakwater sections (north, center, south) and run for more than two miles parallel to the county’s shoreline. The breakwater were constructed in the 1920s and are intended to protect the county’s coastal assets in Bay View, Cupertino and South Shore parks against the lake’s storm surges and heavy winter ice. “Over the years the existing stones have been moved due to these forces flattening the breakwater and developing gaps,” says the parks department’s project website.

The northern section of the breakwater was significantly damaged during the 2020 storms. In its weakened state, the breakwater left vulnerable the South Shore Yacht Club’s piers. Nearly all the piers were destroyed, and, in 2021, the yacht club negotiated a lower lease payment with the county due to the loss of the piers and “collateral loss of membership.” This cost the county more than $78,000 in lost lease revenue from the yacht club.

Parks has been planning a two-phase repair of both the northern and southern halves of the breakwater. A 2020 estimate said that it would cost approximately $2.8 million to repair the entire breakwater. The cost to repair the northern section at the time was $1.3 million. In the 2021 budget, the Milwaukee County Board allocated $1.06 million for design work to repair the breakwater. So far, the county has paid W.F. Baird & Associates approximately $1.03 million for design services.

In the 2023 budget, supervisors Deanna Alexander and Ryan Clancy moved funding out of another shoreline infrastructure project in the parks system and allocated $2.4 million for emergency repairs to the South Shore Breakwater. At the time, W.F. Baird had not yet completed design work, and a design and final cost estimates still have yet to go before the board.

Now the county has issued a request for proposal (RFP) soliciting construction contractors that can begin repairs on the northern section of the breakwater. The plan for the northern breakwater, according to parks, will involve moving around existing armor stone and then placing new larger stone on top of it. “The larger stone will be sufficient to handle the forces applied from storms as well as stabilize the smaller stones by holding them in place,” parks said.

The RFP, if everything goes to plan, indicates that these repairs could be completed by October of this year.

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Categories: MKE County, Parks

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