A contractor is beginning to position equipment in Duluth, as crews prepare to begin dredging and beach nourishment work, likely the week of Aug. 1, according to Corey Weston, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction and survey chief.
The Corps will pay Roen Salvage Co., of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, $1.07 million to dredge shipping lanes and place sediments on the shore of Park Point, where erosion has taken a toll on beaches. The contractor also will tackle the in-water cleanup of 15 areas found to have "high magnetic signatures," according to the Corps. Eight additional areas of concern were found on the shore.
This will mark the second year of the Corps using dredge materials to rebuild a section of beach on Park Point. Last year, a contractor working for the Corps encountered a trove of discarded cans that were inadvertently dredged up, shredded and deposited on the shore, prompting an intensive cleanup effort.
Of the dredge contract, $119,000 will go to pay for debris monitoring and cleanup activities, said Carrie Fox, a spokesperson for the Corps.
The Corps already has excavated and screened the sand in areas of concern on dry land and reported finding "mostly rocks and taconite pellets."
The Corps also has used equipment to rake the beach between the pier and 36th Street, collecting about 17 cubic yards of material, mostly consisting of driftwood and litter. It also reported finding about 20 can fragments in the refuse.
While original plans had called for dredging about 100,000 cubic yards of sediment from the Twin Ports, that has been scaled down 60% to about 40,000 cubic yards.
A news release from the Corps said the reduction is "due to stringent protocols and significant safeguards put in place to ensure the material is free from man-made debris for beach nourishment."
"Public safety is a top priority for the Corps of Engineers, and new requirements will impact the amount of material the contractor can place," project manager Melissa Bosman said in a written statement.
While dredging remains an essential activity to ensure the continued movement of marine traffic through the port, operations should not be impaired by a one-year slowdown, as long as the work is targeted on critical areas, said Jeff Stollenwerk, director of government and environmental affairs for the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.
"The critical shoals identified by the shipping industry will be dredged this year," Fox said. "So, there will be no impacts to navigation due to the reduction in dredging capability this year."
"It is important that we have a successful beach nourishment project this year. So, it's understandable that they would make sure that they're able to manage those materials and not try to do too much," Stollenwerk said.
"However, if this becomes a long-term practice, we would have some concern. There is the federal authorized channel that they're required to maintain, and there is currently, by their own numbers, close to a 3-million-cubic-yard backlog in maintaining the federal navigational channel," he said.
Fox assured the Corps will continue to make headway.
"Although not as much backlog material will be dredged as planned, the 2021 maintenance dredging contract will remove a portion of backlog material while also addressing critical shoals identified by the shipping industry," she said.
A portion of beach between the pier and the S-curve, just south of 12th Street but north of the parking lot, will be fenced off to the public while the beach nourishment is in progress. The project should be completed by Sept. 30.