Duluth cleans up after storm waves batter shore

November 4, 2017

The paved portion of Duluths famed Lakewalk in Canal Park is clear and open again after Lake Superior storm waves buried it with dirt, rock and debris in late October.

A hulking chunk of sidewalk that washed out near the Great Lakes Aquarium has been leveled and paved, clearing the route for people to walk to Bayfront Park for the upcoming Bentleyville holiday light display.

Farther up the shore, officials expect to open a road at Brighton Beach soon, after patching it with temporary pavement.

The whopping waves that battered Duluth and much of Lake Superiors North Shore on Oct. 27 left municipal workers, business leaders and homeowners busy last week assessing damage and making repairs.

The waves ate away at sand dunes along Park Point and shifted riprap along Canal Park and other points. They raised already-high water levels even higher, flooding parking lots and basements.

The wind pushes the water to a higher elevation, so the groundwater table does move up and down with the lake pretty quickly, said Jim Benning, the citys director of Public Works and Utilities.

Although the paved portion of the Lakewalk is open in tourist-popular Canal Park, a wooden boardwalk next to it will need to be repaired after sections of it were washed off their base. Workers collected the wood so it can be reinstalled.

The threshold for state emergency aid to government entities is just over $368,000, Benning said. With a damage estimate on Friday coming in at about $2.5 million, that threshold should be met easily.

But even if state aid isnt granted, Benning said the city will make repairs.

We have to restore the Lakewalk, Benning said. Its what people come to Duluth for.

The city may put in temporary protection when replacing riprap or other water protective barriers, he said, because we still have the gales of November coming in and then whatever else might happen in the spring before we can get to full restoration next summer.

Lake Superior was just 2 inches short of its record high-water level in September and had already been eroding shorelines and seeping into basements. Residents and business owners along the shore worried about November, a month known to bring strong winds and storms. They had hoped the water levels would recede before then, as they traditionally do.

Instead, waves of historic proportions came in October.

Grandmas Saloon Grill near the historic lift bridge closed for a day. With up to 18 inches of water in the old buildings stone basement, managers worried about problems with electricity and other utilities.

Closing on a Friday took a hurtful bite out of business; it is typically the second busiest day of the week and makes up about 25 percent of revenue, said Brian Daugherty, president of Grandmas Restaurant Co.

Daugherty said it was a storm unlike any hes seen in more than 40 years of working on Canal Park.

Its an amazing demonstration of power, he said, describing giant waves crashing over the top of the pier to the lighthouse, submerging the walkway more often than not. I quite frankly had never seen the waves that high before.

Up the shore, the historic Glensheen mansion turned to crowdfunding to raise $5,000 to rebuild a temporary barrier wall that was protecting the inside of its boathouse. Large chunks of its shoreline are now missing, too. Some chunks are resting 20 feet from the shoreline. The long-term fix rebuilding a missing pier to break the waves is projected to cost just over $4 million.

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