RACINE — Sinking lake levels, built-up sediment and a deteriorating boat ramp. Those are the issues the city and county are partnering up to fix — by July 1 of next year or sooner, if all goes according to plan — with the county taking the lead.
County Public Works and Development Services Director Julie Anderson outlined a tentative timeline Wednesday for dredging the small boat basin and repairing the boat ramp at Pershing Park, projects the county says are imperative to the continued success of big events such as Salmon-A-Rama.
The county’s finance committee is to dot the I’s and crossing the T’s during a meeting today, paving the way to receive about $1.2 million in grants needed for the project to go forward.
It’s been 10 years since the county last dredged the small boat basin at the corner of Sixth Street and Pershing Drive, Anderson said, and it’s since built up silt and sediment from the lake.
That build-up is exacerbated by historically low water levels, according to Bill Brose, a consultant with Madison-based SmithGroupJJR, which is doing coastal analysis for the county.
Looking at federal data, Brose said in 2003, when dredging was last done, the lake was “quite a bit higher than it is now” — about 1.5 feet higher.
The basin is still passable by boat, Anderson said, but certain areas are “quite shallow.” The county had to put out buoys this summer marking which areas to avoid, she said.
Meanwhile, the boat ramp has “literally passed its useful life” despite multiple repairs, according to Anderson.
Taking the lead in the dredging and repairing is the county.
The small boat basin is owned by the county and the city owns the boat launch. So fixing them “is essentially a joint project with the county as the lead agency,” Anderson said.
According to Anderson, the city will sign a memorandum of understanding that puts the project mainly in county hands. The city will have the chance to review and approve the final boat ramp design, as well as the construction plan, according to Anderson and city officials.
Once funding is finalized, Anderson said she hopes to move the project forward on a tight schedule — tighter even than anticipated, if weather conditions and permit limitations from the state Department of Natural Resources allow.
In an ideal world, Anderson wants to see the dredging and ramp repairs completed by June 1. Officially, the preliminary timeline has the project slated for completion July 1.
Over the next several weeks, Anderson said grants hopefully will get finalized. They’ll next seek bids from an engineering firm to design the ramp and plan the dredge.
Once those contracts get awarded, Anderson anticipates equipment will be staged and readied in March and April. “The whole project itself takes four to six weeks,” she said. From there, “The goal is to have the whole project done by early June.”
Dual state grants cover most of the cost, but getting at least one of those secured has meant “working in reverse,” Anderson said.
A $700,000 grant from the state’s Department of Transportation’s Harbor Assistance Program was written into the coming year’s biennial budget at the behest of state Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine; state Rep. Thomas Weatherston, R-Caledonia, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester.
Now, Anderson said, the county is working backward to write its grant proposal and secure the promised funds.
The second grant, about $500,000 from the Department of Natural Resources Wisconsin Waterways Commission’s Recreational Boating Fund requires a 25 percent matching grant from both the county and city, totaling a little less than $200,000 apiece.
Leftover funds from other projects will cover the county costs, Anderson said, and city dollars will come from Racine’s capital improvement program, City Administrator Tom Friedel said.
That second grant is awaiting approval from the state Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, Anderson said.