Melissa Walsh

Seawall fix creeping forward

Grosse Pointe News | July 19th, 2018 | Grosse Pointe News - News section

Lakeshoreseawall

Lakeshore seawall fix creeping forward By Melissa Walsh Grosse Pointe Shores and Farms — Rising water in Lake St. Clair may mean better fishing, but it also brings shoreline deterioration — an infrastructure issue for which Wayne County has been seeking federal assistance several years.

“We’re waiting for what the cost will be then the hunt for the money,” Wayne County Commissioner Tim Killeen told the Grosse Pointe News.

The poor condition of the Lakeshore Road seawall is obvious to those who walk along the 3 1/2 miles of county-run shoreline. The damage sustained from Lake St. Clair has resulted in disintegrated and fallen concrete panels with exposed rebar posts planted eight decades ago.

“(The seawall) was installed a long time ago and it is ready for some serious maintenance and repair, if not replacement,” Grosse Pointe Shores Department of Public Works Director Brett Smith said. “It’s getting to a point where it’s causing damage to our infrastructure, specifically a sewer we have running parallel with the seawall on Lakeshore.”

Smith said early spring his sprinkler technicians heard a gushing sound from a manhole cover while working near the sewer line between Lakeshore and its seawall in the south end of the Shores, which “sounded like a waterfall.”

Technicians investigated, uncovering an estimated flow of 80 gallons per minute during dry weather, according to a report delivered by City Engineer Jesse VanDerCreek to city council during its June 19 meeting.

“The seawall is disintegrating and the lake is literally behind the seawall,” said Smith, who pointed to a sinkhole where DPW installed 30 yards of crushed concrete earlier this month. “And we could probably install another 30 yards in that hole.”

Added Smith, “The land erosion is terrible. We have one spot that the erosion is up to a flower bed. The flower bed is going to start getting washed away.”

Maintenance of the Lakeshore seawall, extending from the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club in the Shores to The War Memorial in the Farms, falls under the jurisdiction of Wayne County. However, fixing hazards, such as sinkholes, emerging from erosion due to the seawall’s deterioration, has fallen on Shores and Farms personnel.

“Wayne County hasn’t reimbursed us for any repairs and we haven’t really sought reimbursement yet,” Smith said. “When we have some extra material, we’re just filling holes. What we’re doing is not a fix to the problem. We’re just trying to lessen the amount of hazards that are out there.”

Smith said he submitted several service requests to Wayne County with no results.

In March, Shores City Manager Mark Wollenweber and Farms City Manager Shane Reeside applied for a 2018 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Great Lakes Habitat Restoration grant for federal financial and technical assistance in restoring areas of the seawall, but were denied Friday, July 13.

The application process included a preliminary study conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Of the nine projects submitted for the grant, two were selected — Lake Erie Metro Park in Wayne County and Brandenburg Park in Chesterfield Township.

“We’ll continue to work with the Army Corps of Engineers to get grant money next year,” said Wollenweber.

“They built that road and expanded it in the ’30s and ’40s. And to do so they had to put the seawall in. It’s clearly a Wayne County thing,” Wollenweber said, explaining former U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick requested funding for the Lakeshore seawall restoration several times.

“She would make some effort to put some earmark in for it,” he said. “We never got it. So they never fixed it.”

In 2011, a ban was placed on congressional earmarks for local initiatives.

“We’ve been contacting the county for some time regarding the deterioration of the seawall along Lakeshore Road,” Reeside said. “With higher water the wall has really taken a beating. And the embankment is being undermined.”

Reeside explained the stressed shoreline resulting from the combination of rising water and off-shore storms requires a short-term approach to secure the area and make it safe and a long-term solution, which is dependent on a strategy driven by Wayne County.

“It certainly will require an engineering solution,” Reeside said.

Early May, Reeside and Wollenweber jointly drafted a letter to Killeen requesting short-term assistance and a long-term plan.

Killeen responded by inviting Reeside and Wollenweber to meet with Deputy Director of Wayne County Public Services Lawrence Young and Andrew Kandrevas from the Office of the Wayne County Executive, who promised to evaluate the condition of the seawall for a long-term fix.

“We basically asked them to provide a game plan and accelerate maintenance at this point,” said Reeside. “And Mr. Killeen has been helpful with putting us in contact with the right resources in Wayne County.”

Reeside said U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence and Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters also have expressed initiative in finding a solution for restoring the seawall.

In the meantime, the city managers hoped for approval of their request for a NOAA grant.

“From what we heard (the request) was considered a viable project,” Reeside said.

The Farms and Shores will request another federal Great Lakes restoration grant, whereby, if approved, there would be some shared local cost with the federal financial assistance.

“This has been a problem for 30-some years and it’s slowly getting worse,” said Killeen, calling the Lakeshore seawall issue “a hard nut to crack.”

The first step, he said, is determining the cost of the seawall restoration, possibly $20 million to $30 million.

Congressional interest in the problem “opened up the door to the Army Corps of Engineers,” Killeen said.

“So I wouldn’t call it in limbo, but it’s in the bureaucracy,” he added.

Killeen promised to keep the county involved while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues its assessment.

“It’s lurching forward, but it has to get done,” he said. “And this is as close as we’ve been. We’re talking to the right people.”

However, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is a federal entity, “and they’re busy,” he said.

“At least it’s creeping forward,” said Killeen.