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Cities agree to share in cost of seawall study

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published February 4, 2020

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — A study of the crumbling seawall that separates Lake St. Clair from Lake Shore Road in Grosse Pointe Farms and Shores is moving forward.

While the cities continue to wrestle with Wayne County — maintaining that it’s the county’s responsibility to make and pay for costly repairs — they’ve at least come to an agreement with the county to undertake a study of the seawall, which will include core samples, as mandated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

At a Jan. 21 Farms City Council meeting at Pier Park, the council voted unanimously in favor of paying $18,000 toward the study. Grosse Pointe Shores will be paying $18,000 for its portion of the study, while Wayne County will pay the remaining nearly 50%, or $35,000.

Farms City Manager Shane Reeside said engineers from Hubbell, Roth and Clark will be conducting an analysis of the seawall between roughly the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club in the Shores and Warner Road in the Farms — a stretch of approximately 3 miles.

“That seawall is in pretty bad shape,” Reeside said. “It continues to deteriorate at an exponential level with high water levels and wave action.”

Reeside told the council that the cities have been working with federal representatives to see if they might be able to secure any federal funding for the repairs. Lake St. Clair is an international waterway because it borders Canada as well as the United States.

At a meeting of officials, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in early 2019, Shores City Councilman Matthew Seely said the county had told them it would cost between $28 million and $30 million to remove the existing concrete seawall and install a new one between the GPYC and Warner Road. Seely, who runs a manufacturing business, proposed his own solution — involving the addition of a steel seawall — which he estimated would cost roughly $5 million.

Reeside said Wayne County Commissioner Tim Killeen — whose district encompasses the Grosse Pointes — “has been very helpful on the county end” and got the cities to this point. Killeen has told local leaders that some county officials believe that maintaining the seawall is the responsibility of property owners on or facing the water, which is the case for lakefront property owners up north.

“At this point, this really is a stalemate with the county,” City Councilwoman Beth Konrad-Wilberding said. “I do agree, time is of the essence. This is one of our No. 1 issues now.”

City Councilman Neil Sroka asked Reeside if tackling this study would have any impact on who is “responsible for seawall maintenance.” Reeside said undertaking the study “does not obligate the city” to take care of other aspects of the seawall in the future, including repairs and maintenance.

“I agree, time is of the essence,” Sroka said. “It’s very important to do this, especially because this doesn’t obligate us.”

Interim Grosse Pointe Shores City Manager Tom Krolczyk said the Shores City Council also agreed to pay its share for the seawall agreement, voting 5-1 in favor of the deal during a meeting Jan. 21. He said Shores City Councilman Doug Kucyk cast the dissenting vote. Kucyk also voted against the study at a Dec. 17 Shores City Council meeting, during which the vote was 3-3, leading to the need for the council to vote again in January.

The Farms Council approval of the study expenditure was contingent on the Shores City Council’s approval of the same. In both cases, the $18,000 price was a not-to-exceed figure.