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Shores, Farms officials hope to spur Wayne County to address crumbling seawall

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published March 12, 2019

GROSSE POINTE SHORES/GROSSE POINTE FARMS — “Let’s get the damn seawall built,” District 1 Wayne County Commissioner Tim Killeen, D-Detroit, said during a Feb. 19 Grosse Pointe Shores City Council meeting, paraphrasing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s campaign catchphrase, “Let’s fix the damn roads.”

The deteriorating seawall — an increasingly less stable source of protection for Lake Shore Road against the waters of Lake St. Clair — has been an area of concern for years, but the high price to fund its repair or replacement has left needed work in limbo. Officials and residents in Grosse Pointe Farms and Shores, who see the disintegration on a regular basis, say they can no longer wait for action.

“We don’t want a sinkhole,” Shores Mayor Ted Kedzierski said, noting that they fear lake water will undermine Lake Shore Road.

Although Lake Shore is a county road, Killeen said there’s been debate as to who is responsible for the seawall. City leaders say it’s the county’s job, and the cities have been reluctant to take on the repairs themselves because city officials fear that even a modest fix could leave them liable for any and all future work. Killeen said some county officials believe it’s the responsibility of property owners on or facing the water, which is the case for lakefront property owners Up North.

At a recent meeting of officials, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Shores City Councilman Matthew Seely said county officials told them it would cost between $28 million and $30 million to remove the existing seawall and install a new one between the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club in the Shores and Crescent Sail Yacht Club in Grosse Pointe Farms, a stretch of roughly 3 miles.

Seely, who runs a manufacturing business, came up with a far less costly proposal that he believes would be just as effective. For about $5 million, Seely’s proposal would leave the old seawall in place and drive a new steel seawall in front of it, putting crushed rock behind the steel seawall and raising the height of the wall by approximately 3 feet to prevent lake water from splashing over the wall and onto the roadway on windy days.

Even though they would be raising the height of the seawall, Seely said it still wouldn’t be visible to motorists, so views of the scenic waterfront should say pristine.

Seely said he could get a contractor out as early as April to begin filling in breaches in the old seawall, and those repairs could be tied into the new seawall project so the work wouldn’t be done in vain.

The Shores City Council unanimously approved a resolution to request emergency repair funds from Wayne County for the seawall, an effort the Shores is coordinating with the Farms. As the resolution notes, in the 1930s, Wayne County expanded Lake Shore Road to four lanes with a median and installed a seawall to protect the road from high water levels and wave action.

“The resolution is a legal notice that this is a very serious situation that needs to be dealt with (immediately),” Kedzierski said.

During a March 11 meeting, the Farms City Council unanimously approved a similar resolution.

Farms Mayor Louis Theros said that the votes of the councils are a way of conveying that “we need action sooner rather than later.” Now, local officials hope the resolution will spur the county to action.

“We just have to stay on this now,” Killeen said. “That’s my road out there. I don’t want a piece of my road washing out (into the lake). … It’s got to get done in some fashion, and it’s got to get done correctly.”

Killeen said they might be able to secure some money for the project from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, although that hadn’t been determined at press time.

“I think we’re to a point where people are willing to do something,” Seely said.