Port officials agree with Army Corps’ decision postponing repairs, giving city time to apply for additional grants
There won’t be any work done on the Port Washington breakwater this summer.
Although city officials had anticipated work on the steel cell portion of the breakwater would be done by the Army Corps of Engineers beginning in July, Mayor Tom Mlada told the Common Council Tuesday that this timeline has changed.
Officials from the Corps have expressed concern that they may be unable to complete the work this year, leaving a portion of the project in limbo over the winter, Mlada said.
“If it’s three-quarters done, there’s a feeling it may be worse than if nothing’s done,” he said.
That’s a real fear considering the Corps wasn’t slated to begin work until mid to late-July, and if weather delays any earlier projects their crews are working on, the Port project will be moved back, City Administrator Mark Grams said.
“They (officials at the Corps’ Kewaunee office) feel more comfortable delaying it,” Grams said. “I think in the long run, that’s probably the best option.”
By delaying the work, Corps officials have told the city they may be able to realize some efficiencies in the work, Mlada said.
“There are no concerns we’re going to have any overruns,” he added.
Grams said the city may also get a better project with the delay.
Extending the project into next year would allow the city to apply for additional grant funds to pay for the work, Mlada said.
“This gives us another grant cycle to seek more dollars,” he said. “The longer the Corps money is out there the longer we can leverage it.”
The city has also checked to ensure a delay won’t cause it to lose any of the grant money it has already received, Mlada said.
In May, the council agreed to spend as much as $280,000 of city money to pay for the $1 million in work that was to be done this year by the Army Corps.
The remainder of the funding, $720,000, is being funded through grants.
Grams noted that the delay will allow the city to apply for harbor assistance funds from the Department of Transportation — a program the city qualifies for because it will host the tall ship Denis Sullivan several times this summer.
City officials have talked to DOT officials administering the program and been told the project is a good fit, Grams said, adding they were urged to apply for the funds.
There is one other benefit to delaying the project, Mlada said.
The original schedule would have closed the breakwater much of the summer — peak tourist season, he said.
If the work is done next year, Corps officials have said construction could begin in May and the breakwater could be open in July, he said.
Corps officials have assured the city that the structure is sound enough to make it through the winter relatively unscathed, Mlada added.
“The one variable is that you’re leaving it the way it is over winter. Clearly there’s an impact,” he said. “They feel it’s stable.
“We’ll hope and pray this winter won’t be too bad.”
The failing condition of the breakwater has become a major concern of the city in recent years.
Last year, the Army Corps allocated $1 million to the project — funds that were to be spent replacing the cap, or walkway. However, city officials asked that the money instead be spent replacing armor stone to protect the breakwater from strong lake waves.
In return, the city agreed to finance the repairs to the cap this year.
The armor stone has helped significantly over the winter, but the cap atop the structure is falling apart and allowing water inside, where it is destroying the breakwater from the inside out, officials said.
The Army Corps work this year would have replaced the cap in the steel cell portion of the structure.
City officials are also working on plans to improve the entry to the breakwater as well as the far east side, near the lighthouse.