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Residents provide input on Saxon Harbor designs



Hurley — Fans of Saxon Harbor had a chance to hear the latest plans for the harbor’s reconstruction Tuesday at the Hurley K-12 school as engineers from the various parts of the project presented the designs and sought public feedback.

The multi-hour meeting started with a presentation from Christopher McMahon, of Ayres Associates engineering firm, on the reconstruction of the County A bridge over Oronto Creek that was partially destroyed during the July 11, 2016 storm that flooded and destroyed the harbor.

McMahon said there are three basic stages to the reconstruction of County A — restoring the channel of Oronto Creek to its same basic path, reopening the road to the current bridge by rebuilding the north approach that was washed away during the storm and building the new bridge.

The first two phases will be finished by June 1 so the existing bridge can be used by the trucks rebuilding the marina and campground during the summer while the work on the new bridge is being completed.

McMahon explained the existing bridge wasn’t structurally damaged during the storm, and the damage was limited to the one approach.

“The existing bridge that is here is structurally sound,” McMahon said. “There is no structural problem with the bridge, the problem is you can’t get to it on the north side.”

Even so, McMahon said a new bridge is being built as the work on the existing bridge would get in the way of the work at the rest of the harbor — potentially delaying one of the projects.

The new bridge will be located west of the existing bridge, rerouting County A through the site of the former campground — roughly following the route of the current temporary bridge.

The new bridge is expected to be larger and have a greater clearance to allow more water to flow under it. The designers hope the improved design will alleviate at least some of the water back up which caused Oronto Creek to leave its channel and flow into the marina, destroying it.

While the numbers may change slightly, the preliminary plans presented at the meeting call for the new bridge to be a “104-foot long, three-span concrete flat slab bridge with a 34-foot clear width.” The former bridge was a 46-foot single-span bridge that was 28 feet wide. The new bridge will have 12.1 feet of clearance under it, in contrast to the 6.7 feet under the old bridge.

These increased dimensions are designed to eliminate water flowing over it, McMahon said, whereas the old bridge was designed to have water over it every 20 years.

Some residents expressed concern regarding the wisdom of returning Oronto Creek to its former route, arguing the sharp bend in the creek would once again be the fail point in a future flood.

McMahon and the others at the meeting involved in the harbor reconstruction explained that while it may fail again, the Federal Emergency Management Agency only provided funding to restore a site to its pre-storm state and the county didn’t have the funds to reroute the creek and rebuild the harbor without FEMA help.

There were also concerns that while the bridge design had been improved, the new design still wouldn’t have withstood the amount of water that hit the harbor on July 11.

McMahon and the others explained the amount of water at the harbor was more than expected in a 1,000 year storm and at some point the low probability of a disaster happening makes it impractical to build something to withstand that situation.

The bridge project is expected to cost roughly $1,515,000 — 80 percent of which is expected to be covered by federal highway funds and Iron County paying the remaining 20 percent.

Following McMahon’s presentation, a team from the firms of Smithgroup JJR and Foth Infrastructure & Environment, LLC presented two possible designs for the harbor’s campground and two designs for the marina.

The group recounted the history of the design process and explained what their task of balancing the visions of different stakeholders.

Following this introduction, the group presented the basic facts of each design before breaking into informal groups to provide the audience a means of giving feedback on the designs.

The first campground option featured a large site along County A, across from the Harbor Lights bar.

The rough site plan calls for 26 sites and one bathroom facility, and also required the excavation of 40-feet of bluff to make a level site for the campground. The plan would also call for a wall to prevent the bluff from sliding into the campground and rerouting of a small creek that runs through the site footprint.

The second plan calls for two smaller campground locations — one with 14 sites across County A from Harbor Lights and another with 16 sites near the confluence of Oronto and Parker creeks, where the harbor’s current rustic camping sites are. This plan would have two restrooms due to the larger overall footprint, and would call for more intensive bluff stabilization methods.

While this plan would call for less bluff excavation, more wetlands would be impacted — with Smithgroup JJR’s Jason Stangland estimating the cost of wetland mitigation to be $70,000 to $90,000 per acre.

Both plans are slightly smaller than the 33 sites in the former campground, 26 of which were destroyed in the storm.

The two marina designs were largely the same, but presented different options for parking and the location of the marina’s western boat launch.

One plan also called for more green space in the area between Lake Superior and the marina’s two basins, whereas the other plan used that space for parking.

Residents provided a variety of feedback points during the breakout sessions that ended the evening — including a general consensus on the importance of some green space at the northern edge of the park next to the lake, but there were different views on how much was actually needed.

Several people also felt relocating the boat launch from the north basin, near the mouth of the harbor, to the end of the south basin would create too much traffic between the boats launching and those moored at the south basin’s docks.

The design team plans to compile the feedback from Tuesday into a final design to be presented at the Nov. 7 forestry and parks committee meeting.


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