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Superior grain facility receives state money

The eastern dock wall at Cenex Harvest States in Superior will have new sheet piling installed later this year with the help of a $1.7 million grant from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's Harbor Assistance Program. (Submitted photo)

The largest grain storage facility on the Great Lakes, located in Superior, is getting a helping hand from a Wisconsin Department of Transportation program designed to maintain port facilities.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced $8 million in harbor assistance grants last week.

Cenex Harvest States in Superior was awarded a $1.7 million grant to support its $2.36 million project to repair 590 feet of dock wall on the east side of the facility. The wall is critical to providing adequate water depth for shipping activities, allowing ships to load grain safely and providing support to its massive storage facility on the waterfront west of the Blatnik Bridge.

AMI Consulting Engineers has been tracking degradation of the east wall for 14 years, which requires immediate remediation to prevent soil failure through one of the oldest areas of the dock wall affected by severe corrosion found in the harbor. About 50 percent of the steel has been lost, according to 2016-17 inspections of the facility.

"The $1.7 million award was less than what was requested," said Jason Serck, economic development, port and planning director for the city of Superior. "CHS will be responsible for the differences."

The city requested $1.89 million — 80 percent — of the projected costs.

Under the Harbor Assistance Program, the state requires the city to apply for and administer the project through a development and grant agreement.

CHS, which employs more than 57 full-time employees at its Superior facility, ships the largest volume of grain from the Midwest to coastal areas of the U.S. and world markets; the east side of facility consistently stores and ships 20 million bushels of grain each year. Any reduction in the facility's ability to ship grain would greatly affect employment, revenue and taxes, according to a memo submitted to the Superior City Council in July, when councilors approved seeking state support. If the east dock facility becomes inoperable, as many as 25 to 30 local jobs could be lost.

The remainder of the west- and east-side facility has been repaired in stages over the past 20 years utilizing private and grant dollars. The current proposed project is designed with an expected minimum life of 50 years.

With the award of the grant, Serck said the preliminary goal would be to have this project out for bid in early spring, with construction over the summer.

Another Harbor Assistance Program announced last week provides nearly $1.3 million to reconstruct the northerly wall of the city dock in Washburn.