“It’s a huge impact, especially when the concrete is being poured right now,” said Will Smigelski of The King Co., the firm contracted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the project. “The lower the wake, the better it is for us.”
Construction officials say any amount of surface water that washes over the pier interferes with the workers’ ability to pour concrete, weld and install the steel forms for the new pier surface, and also poses a risk for losing equipment and materials.
Smigelski noted that the higher water level on Lake Michigan than in years past means regular waves caused by wind also have an impact on their ability to work, and the boat traffic compounds the issue.
“Every boat wake adds to that and swamps us out,” he said. “We have a lot of tools out here and stuff like that, and we have to keep an eye on them.”
Work on the second half of the pier repair project — from the entrance to the inner lighthouse — began earlier this spring. The workers say they’ve had a string of good days that have helped them make progress on the pier.
“We’ve had (bad) weather days mixed in since we’ve been out here, but we’ve had quite a bit accomplished,” Smigelski said. “We’re just going to keep moving along and see where that takes us.”
Army Corps of Engineers Area Engineer Tom O’Bryan noted that the contractors hope to have work on the pier wrapped up by September if weather allows the work to proceed on schedule.
The catwalk, which is currently being refabricated off site by The King Co., will be reinstalled next spring. Fifty-six new arches, or “bents,” are being fabricated for the new pier. One each of the three types of bents used in the original catwalk will also be restored and incorporated into the reinstalled catwalk.