Federal officials to consider funding for seawall repairs

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 24, 2023


GROSSE POINTE FARMS/SHORES — Federal aid could be coming to help repair the crumbling seawall along the Lake St. Clair shoreline in Grosse Pointe Farms and Grosse Pointe Shores.

Federal officials announced at the end of 2022 that $100,000 was being allocated to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to look at erosion and deterioration of the seawall in the Farms and Shores. That’s in addition to a $100,000 appropriation that was approved earlier to the Army Corps for this issue.

Farms City Manager Shane Reeside said this is the first step in the process of possibly receiving federal assistance on this project.

“It will fund a determination of whether there is federal interest in repairing the seawall along Lake Shore Drive,” Reeside said.

Reeside said officials in the Farms, Shores and Wayne County have “had good dialogue” with former 14th District U.S. Rep. Brenda L. Lawrence and U.S. Sen. Gary Peters’ staff with regard to the seawall.

“As the Vice Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, I am proud to have secured 15 Community Project Funding requests totaling $17,754,533 in this bill that I know will make a positive difference for the people of Michigan’s 14th District,” Lawrence said in a statement in December 2022. “These projects address the most pressing issues impacting Southeast Michigan, including childcare, water infrastructure, community safety, education, the skilled workforce and mental health. I want to thank Chairwoman DeLauro and the entire committee for their efforts to pass this legislation into law.”

Lawrence, whose district was reconfigured last year, did not run for reelection.

“It’s really a positive step in potentially receiving federal funding for this project,” Reeside said of the allocation to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Getting the Army Corps on board is “important for a longer-term solution,” Reeside said.

Because the seawall was originally built by Wayne County and is adjacent to a county road — Lake Shore Road — the cities have long maintained that seawall repairs and maintenance fall to the county, not the cities.

In 2019, engineers with Hubbell, Roth and Clark — engaged via an intergovernmental agreement with the Farms, Shores and Wayne County — assessed the seawall by doing soil borings and a topographical survey. HRC determined that it would cost roughly $23.8 million to replace the seawall. That’s more than the county, and the county working with the cities, could afford, which is why they’re hoping to obtain federal as well as state funding.

The communities have already gotten a hand from the state. In the summer of 2022, the Farms was awarded a $750,000 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to address some of the worst sections of seawall. Reeside said Wayne County reduced some of the costs of this work by providing backfill aggregate, enabling crews to tackle more than a dozen of the most serious breaches in the Farms and Shores.

More state funding is on the way this year. Phase 2 of seawall work will start in spring 2023, thanks to a $1.2 million grant from the state, Reeside said. He said they will continue to work on sections of seawall based on which are the most in need of immediate repair.

City officials have said credit for state funding is due to help last year from state legislators, including state Rep. Joe Tate and state Sen. Adam Hollier.

“We’re really grateful to our state representatives, but we’re also grateful to Sen. Peters and Congresswoman Lawrence for advocating on our behalf,” Reeside said.

The Army Corps appropriation came about as part of U.S. Senate passage in December 2022 of the Water Resources Development Act, which includes several initiatives across the state. The act was signed into law.

“This legislation makes essential investments to modernize our water infrastructure, keep our water safe and protect the Great Lakes for future generations,” Sen. Peters said in a statement.