The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

July storm continued to make headlines in 2017


December 29, 2017

Editor’s note: The Daily Globe is counting down the top five local stories of 2017. The rebuilding effort following the July 2016 storm was chosen as the second biggest story of the year.


Last year’s big July storm, which claimed a life in Iron County, Wis., and caused millions of dollars of damage across the region, continued to make headlines in both Michigan and Wisconsin in 2017.


The year began with good news as Iron County learned on Jan. 12 it had been awarded three grants — totaling $326,453 — to help repair Saxon Harbor after it was destroyed in the rain and flooding during the July 11, 2016 storm.

Two of the three grants for a combined $138,910, will help pay for the county’s share of the necessary dredging at the harbor; while the third grant will go to repair work at the harbor not covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The county had planned to return the harbor to its pre-storm design, however a state law prohibiting campgrounds from being built in a flood plain unless an early warning system was installed — something that would be impossible due to the harbor’s proximity to Oronto Creek — required the campgrounds to be moved. The movement of the campgrounds opened the way for the rerouting of County A and construction of a new, larger bridge over Oronto Creek.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation believes the larger bridge design will provide additional clearance and prevent the water backup and flooding that washed away the old bridge’s north approach.

The work on the bridge will be completed in three phases, according to what Christopher McMahon, an engineer working on the project, said in October.

The old bridge will be temporarily repaired before June 1 so trucks working on the rest of the harbor can use it while the new bridge is being built. The new bridge will be located just west of the old bridge and generally follow the route of the temporary bridge in place over Oronto Creek.

In May, the county learned the harbor had made the cut for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers funding to dredge the Corps’ portion of the harbor. The Corps’ work plan for 2017 provided $1.375 million for dredging the channel coming into the marina and through the center of the north basin.

Almost 15,000 cubic yards of sediment needs to be removed from that portion of the harbor, with the county hoping to piggyback onto the Corps’ project to remove an additional 24,000 cubic yards from its portion of the marina.

While the county is expecting to bid out its portion of the work in January, the Army Corps awarded its contract to Roen Salvage Company in October.

The location of the campgrounds remained up in the air until November when the county board voted to locate a 26-site campground along County A, across from the Harbor Lights bar. The county had voted in March to move the campground to land it was acquiring east of the harbor, however the discovery of an eagle’s nest with fledglings prevented that. Federal law prohibits construction within a certain distance of an active nest, effectively eliminating the possibility of the property being used for a campgrounds.

Along with deciding the location of the campgrounds, the county board also approved the design of the marina in November.

While the basic design is similar to the old marina, the new design calls for 83 boat slips — around 50 percent of which will be for boats 32 feet or longer. While this is fewer slips than the pre-storm 91, the new plan is designed to accommodate the larger boats that have been the trend in recent years.

While much of the county’s focus was on Saxon Harbor, a smaller project to replace a washed-away viewing deck was completed in August at Potato River Falls in Gurney. The 100-square-foot platform, at the end of a 150-foot boardwalk, is in a different location because of erosion during the storm. While the location is less convenient, it was deemed too costly to replace the lost soil necessary to rebuild at the old location. FEMA is covering $14,400 of the $19,211 price-tag, with Iron County and the state of Wisconsin splitting the rest.

With the year winding down, the most recent updates put the harbor on track for construction to start in 2018 and meeting the county’s target of reopening in 2019.


In Michigan, 2017 meant the second year of repairs to Lake Road and the Little Girl’s Point area to fix road wash-outs from the 2016 storms.

The Gogebic County Road Commission learned in July it would be getting an extra $1 million from the state to help with repairs. The money helped the county pay for the work needed to replace 14 culverts on the local roads at the Point, including Brace and Powers Roads, as well as Partridge and Aspen Lanes.

The money came from a special legislative grant through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and will pay for work that wasn’t covered by the Federal Highway Administration aid for Lake Road.

“With the flooding event back in July 2016, we did receive funding through the emergency relief program, but that was only for culverts damaged that were (under) federal aid-eligible roads, which is Lake Road itself,” road commission engineer-manager Darren Pionk said in August. “We had so much damage on the local road system, and (didn’t have) any other funding resources available.”

Gogebic County took out a loan with the State Infrastructure Bank to pay for the Lake Road repairs until it receives the Highway Administration aid.

The Lake Road work, which replaced eight culverts, paved a half-mile stretch of Lake Road just north of the natural springs and resurfaced over the 10 culverts put in last year. It was largely completed by the end of September. MJO Construction was awarded the contract for the project, with its $887,605 bid being roughly 13 percent lower than the estimated cost. This was the same company that completed the first year of Lake Road repairs.


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