After Saxon Harbor was devastated by flooding in the summer of 2016, Iron County has now received stewardship funding to help rebuild the recreation area.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources awarded Iron County a $1 million grant to repair damages at the harbor on Lake Superior northwest of Hurley, said James Yach, the DNR secretary's northern region director.
"It's a driver for that economy to provide angling and boating recreation opportunities on Lake Superior, but it also serves as a refuge," Yach said. "It has significant functional value because, if the seas get bad, ships or boats can take safe haven in that harbor."
The harbor's marina and campground were destroyed and nearby roads washed out when 10 inches or more of rain fell in Northwestern Wisconsin during storms on July 11-12, 2016. Oronto Creek, which empties into the harbor, overflowed. Nineteen boats were beached and others sank or were set adrift. Mitch Koski, a firefighter and the former mayor of Montreal, Wis., died when his vehicle was swept away while he was responding to a call for help.
Iron County Forest Administrator Eric Peterson said the grant will help the county pay for its portion of the estimated $10 million to $11 million in damage.
"Every day we're getting closer. We're making progress. Some days we have a couple steps back, but we keep pushing ahead," he said. "As of right now, we're still on our target of opening in spring of '19."
Peterson said they plan to rebuild the marina with fewer than the 91 boat slips that previously existed in order to accommodate larger boats.
"We had quite a few narrow boat slips in Saxon Harbor before the storm, and the trend in boating today is bigger and better and wider and faster," he said. "We're trying to react to that, too, as we're redesigning this."
Peterson said projects at the marina and campground are expected to go out for bids this spring pending approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Saxon Harbor generates revenue for the county, Peterson said, noting about 2,000 people use the marina and campground in a single weekend during the busy season.
"It's a destination point for many, many people, not only locals, but for people all over Wisconsin and the Great Lakes region," he said.
Plans also have been finalized by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to rebuild the road and bridge at Saxon Harbor. Dredging of federal channels at the harbor is set to begin in May. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers set aside $1.375 million last summer for work there.
Wisconsin Public Radio can be heard in the Twin Ports at 91.3 FM or online at wpr.org/news. The News Tribune contributed to this report.