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Coastline concerns

Marquette City Commission OKs further emergency bank stabilization work along portion of Lakeshore Boulevard after recent storms

At top, road closed and detour signs are pictured near the intersection of Lakeshore Boulevard and East Fair Avenue in Marquette on Wednesday. The stretch of Lakeshore Boulevard between East Fair Avenue and Pine Street has been closed since October after storms led to substantial erosion in the area. (Journal photo by Cecilia Brown)

MARQUETTE — In just two months, the Marquette City Commission has authorized spending more than $200,000 to repair a stretch of Lakeshore Boulevard that’s been repeatedly damaged by severe weather.

The commission on Monday voted 4-2 in support of emergency bank stabilization work to repair damage to a section of Lakeshore Boulevard between East Fair Avenue and Pine Street after the first round of emergency work was authorized in October.

This round of repairs will involve placing about 70 loads of rock at $800 per load to restore the armoring along that part of Lakeshore Boulevard so “the coast is armored for future storms and the infrastructure remains protected,” city notes state. It will be done by Smith Construction for $56,000 with a contingency of 15% for a total not to exceed $64,400.

The work will be done in the area north of Shiras Park and south of Lakeshore Boulevard’s intersection with Wright Street. The portion of Lakeshore Boulevard to the north — between Wright and Hawley streets, which city officials said experienced “catastrophic failure” during a recent storm — is not included in the project.

The work approved Monday night was not budgeted for, but “sufficient funds will be made available through a budget adjustment to cover the emergency work from the storm damage once it has been totaled,” according to city documents.

The Lake Superior shoreline is seen from the parking lot of Shiras Park in Marquette. City officials have said they intend to reopen the parking lot in this area soon. However, on the section of Lakeshore Boulevard just north of Shiras Park, another round of emergency bank stabilization work was approved by the Marquette City Commission Monday night, as the area’s armoring was impacted by large waves during a late November storm. (Journal photo by Cecilia Brown)

This is the second city commission approval of emergency stabilization work in that area this year, as around $154,000 was approved by the commission Oct. 28 for Smith Construction to place up to 1,400 linear feet of rock armoring along the coast due to “heavy erosion damage from wave action and the storm surge of Lake Superior,” city officials said.

However, after the project was completed, 20-foot waves battered the coast again during a storm on Nov. 27.

While “the shore armoring did its job in the sense that the road is still intact along this section of Lakeshore Boulevard,” parts of the new armoring were damaged and “must be repaired and strengthened to maintain its effectiveness,” city officials said.

Mayor Pro Tem Jenn Hill and Commissioner Andrew Lorinser were the dissenting votes Monday, citing concerns about a need for a larger discussion and longer-range plan regarding that portion of Lakeshore Boulevard. Commissioner Evan Bonsall was absent and excused from the meeting.

“I need something far more future-oriented and part of a much greater plan,” Lorinser said. “These rocks, we say that they did their part, but here we are debating another $64,000 to reinforce them. I’m skeptical that they will last the next winter storm. So until we come up with something that will be in place seven generations from now, I can’t support this.”

Hill said she hopes to “start to address what’s going on with the water as well as what’s going on with the land” along the lakeshore.

“We are going to have to learn how to live differently with the lake, with these great changes that happened so rapidly … It’s sad that we are losing things that we thought would always be there and that’s hard,” Hill said. “I’m hoping as stewards of both the land and the money here, that we can do a good job looking forward and not just backwards about how to live on the lakeshore.”

Hill also asked Marquette City Manager Mike Angeli if there was a long-term plan for the portion of Lakeshore Boulevard between Pine Street and East Fair Avenue.

“We do not have a long-term plan,” Angeli said. “The short-term plan is what you’re looking at now. And what we hope to do is stabilize the shoreline so that it’s there, so we can develop a long-term plan based on what we have here.”

Commissioners Paul Schloegel, Fred Stonehouse, Peter Frazier and Mayor Jenna Smith acknowledged the need for a longer-term plan but said it is critical to pursue this immediate work to prevent further damage to the area.

“It’s very important that we take steps right now to shore this up,” Schloegel said. “Not to say that there shouldn’t be a more well rounded and seven-generation approach to where we are headed with this, but if we don’t take care of this now, we’re probably going to end up losing part of (Lakeview) Arena’s parking lot, if not part of the building. So these are measures that we need to put in place in order to at least buy some time to do this.”

Stonehouse emphasized that the armoring protects more than just Lakeshore Boulevard, saying the rocks will help defend the stormwater outlet and bridge in the area, as well as the nearby Lakeview Arena and Shiras Park.

“There’s many reasons why we’ve got to react to that and do it now to preserve what we have, because ever trying to recover it will be almost impossible,” he said.

While Smith had voted ‘no’ on the previous work, she said she would support it because “it does appear the last round of stabilization did work and was necessary.”

“I know we’re making progress on having a bigger conversation as evidenced tonight and we’ll be having a work session on this in the coming weeks,” she said.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is cbrown@miningjournal.net.

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