$2M fix back on Corps of Engineers' radar

Alex Doty • Feb 17, 2016 at 8:00 AM

Major improvements to Grand Haven’s south pier could begin before the end of the year.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Detroit District office recently announced additions to its fiscal year 2016 program based on its recently approved work plan. An additional $22.4 million includes $1.8 million for work on the south pier.

”We plan on having that contract negotiated and awarded at the end of June,” said Tom O’Bryan, Grand Haven-area engineer for the corps. “What we’re shooting for is a construction start on the pier at the beginning of August.”

The pier project was slated to start last November, but work was put on hold when emergency funding that would’ve paid for the improvements was reallocated to a higher priority outside of the Great Lakes region.

“We did keep $300,000 (from the emergency funds),” O’Bryan said. “The $1.8 million came in the fiscal year work plan.”

The project will consist of removing the existing concrete surface so repairs can be made. The exposed area will then be repaired, filled with stone and recapped with new concrete.

O’Bryan noted that they’re going to work with the contractor to try and keep portions of the pier open during construction, if possible.

“Right now, we have a completion date that goes all the way to December 2017,” O’Bryan said, noting that work would shut down for the winter months.

O’Bryan said he hopes most of the work is wrapped up by the 2017 Coast Guard Festival in Grand Haven.

The Corps of Engineers’ latest work plan came about when Congress appropriated additional funding for ongoing work in the fiscal year 2016 Energy & Water Development Appropriations Act. The corps developed an allocation plan, which included $46.3 million in additional funds for the entire Great Lakes for high-priority work packages based on the criteria established by Congress.

The Detroit District’s work plan increase of $22.4 million includes three new dredging projects; three dredging projects with additional funding; and six repair, replacement or construction projects. In addition, the work plan includes design funding for two environmental restoration projects.

"We recognize and are committed to spending these resources responsibly in order to ensure that taxpayer-provided funds are maximized within the Great Lakes,“ said Lt. Col. Michael Sellers, Detroit District engineer for the corps. ”We construct, maintain and operate key infrastructure projects that are crucial to the nation’s economy, environment, safety and quality of life, now and in the future.“

The news about Grand Haven’s pier comes as catwalk preservation fundraising efforts have ramped up.

“It’s safe to say we’ve had a fire lit under us, and now it’s turned up ten-fold,” Grand Haven City Manager Pat McGinnis said.

It’s been previously estimated that the city needs to come up with at least $200,000 just to temporarily raise the catwalk during the corps’ pier work. In all, the Save the Catwalk group would like to raise $1.5 million in order to make needed repairs to the catwalk structure.

“The alternatives are to take it off of the pier, which we don’t want to do, or go to the taxpayers, which we don’t want to do,” McGinnis said.

The catwalk preservation group hosted a fundraiser at the end of last month to get a jump on raising money. McGinnis said it’s estimated that the group helped raise more than $40,000.

“But we need to quadruple that,” he said.

As summer approaches and more people come to visit, McGinnis noted that it would be crucial to spread the message about saving the catwalk.

“We’re hoping we can get support from both in-town and out-of-town interests,” he said.

But even with the increased urgency to get funding, city officials are looking forward to the pier project.

“One way or another, the pier is going to be redone,” McGinnis said. “We’re very grateful for that. ... That storm in November took some big chunks out of that thing.”

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