High water levels to reshape the future of Lakeshore Boulevard

Published: Dec. 17, 2019 at 6:25 PM EST
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Near record-high water levels have impacted roads, parks and recreational facilities all around the Great Lakes.

No one knows that more than Marquette City Manager, Mike Angeli. He says a small number of the population suggests the problematic portions of Lakeshore Boulevard should be swallowed up by Lake Superior.

"We've got almost ten miles of shoreline here in the city that's all public access. That stretch of roadway is essential to this community. The number of people that drive it locally every day during the summer," Angeli declared.

However, Angeli says the Marquette coastline is part of the city's identity.

"Even in the winter, it's very important to them. It's also related a lot to our economy in that it's a tourism thing. People come to Marquette and they like to drive along the lake shore," Angeli asserted.

For several years, the City of Marquette has planned to mitigate erosion along Lakeshore Blvd. north of Wright Street by moving the roadway further inland.

"It's been something we've been trying to do for years, but we never had the money," Angeli figured.

Angeli says a series of grants from FEMA and other interested parties totaling $5 million combined with money in the Marquette coffers should be enough to finalize that project by the end of next summer.

"We estimate the whole cost to be around $12 million. It includes some armoring along the shoreline and some things out in the lake to affect the waves while they're coming in," Angeli announced.

Recently, Superior gales and rising water levels have caused new areas of concern south of Wright Street.

"Just on that section by Picnic Rocks, this year, we've probably spent $225,000 in the last month, money we had not budgeted," Angeli calculated.

Several decades of repairing storm damage adds up.

"Half a million dollars we've probably got in maintaining that road and keeping it going over the last couple decades," Angeli reasoned.

It’s all attributed to heavy rain and snowfall according to Keith Kompoltowicz, Chief of Watershed Hydrology for the Army Corps of Engineers.

"It's been record wet consistently over the past five years. If you look back at precipitation totals going back 12 months, 24 months, 36 months or even back to 60 months, it's the wettest such time period in 100 to 120 years of records. And that has driven the levels of all of the Great Lakes very high," Kompoltowicz stated.

He says water levels on Lake Superior tend to level off or even fall during these winter months.

"Lake Superior set monthly record highs several times earlier this year in the summer months," Kompoltowicz recalled.

The City of Marquette plans to continue to work on a permanent solution while seeking various grants and federal funding next year and beyond, regardless of what Mother Nature has planned.

to learn more about future plans to realign portions of Lakeshore Blvd.