No new storm damage on Lakewalk
The spring storm that blew through Duluth on Thursday caused "no significant damage," a city official said Monday.
Mike LeBeau, construction project supervisor for the city of Duluth, said high winds off Lake Superior blew ice into the shore, creating a barrier that helped protect the Lakewalk.
Before the storm, the National Weather Service had warned that strong winds and high waves could loft ice into the air, endangering the shoreline and anyone nearby.
Instead, the ice built up along the shore and disrupted waves and helped to keep water away from the path, LeBeau said.
One closure remains after last week's storm: Brighton Beach Road, which runs on a fairly low stretch through Kitchi Gammi Park on Duluth's eastern edge.
LeBeau said the city is hoping to move that road farther up the hill in the future.
Duluth has seen three previous storms in the past two years — in October 2017, April 2018 and October 2018 — causing between $25 million and $30 million in damage to the Lakewalk.
While last week's storm didn't add to the damage tally, repairs are ongoing, and work to restore the Lakewalk in Canal Park likely won't happen at all this year.
As part of phase one of the restoration project, a new concrete wall was installed behind the Fitger's complex as an emergency measure to protect the trail there, along with large boulders for a multi-tiered defense against high waves.
Phase two will see the wall extended from Fitger's back to the Northland Vietnam Veterans Memorial at about Fourth Avenue East.
Complicating matters, LeBeau said that for years industrial waste was dumped along the shoreline from about Leif Erikson Park to 26th Avenue East.
"The whole shoreline was just a dump," he said. "So, as it eroded, what's left is concrete slabs and timbers and pipes and garbage. That doesn't hold the soil together."
Large stones will be added along the shore between about 17th and 26th avenues east to help stop erosion and protect the Lakewalk there. LeBeau said the city is looking at stone from local quarries for the project.
The city has created temporary Lakewalk paths for pedestrians in damaged areas, LeBeau said.
Climate change, too, is a complicating factor, LeBeau said.
Until the late 1980s, a junkyard took up much of the shoreline in Canal Park. When the city cleaned up the area, it brought in rockfill and stones for landscaping. But with higher lake levels becoming the norm, those materials need to be replaced, LeBeau said.
"The standards are different; the climate is different," he said. "The storms are more fierce. So, it lasted 30 years."
Waiting for aid
While repair work has been slow-going in part because the city has seen a storm every six months, delays in federal funding have pushed timelines farther back, particularly in Canal Park, LeBeau said.
"The October 2018 storm did a tremendous amount of damage in Canal Park, and it pushed things into the federal realm," he said.
After the first two storms, only state money had been needed for repairs. But the October storm led to a request for federal aid, a process that involves more requirements, including permits and historical and archaeological studies.
"We're really struggling to get that (message) out, that we're not just sitting here twiddling our thumbs," LeBeau said.
Work involving federal funding can't begin until that process is complete.
In addition, the federal government shutdown in December and January stopped that process in its tracks, while President Donald Trump considered diverting disaster aid to fund a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.
The entire restoration project is expected to take two to three years, LeBeau said.