Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 19, 2013

Forum: More to pier planning than meets the eye

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — By Deni Scrudato

Traverse City city commissioners recently gave a green light to begin the environmental study and review process relating to a public pier at the mouth of the Boardman River on West Grand Traverse Bay. First came approval of a Rotary Charities Grant on May 20, followed July 1 by another grant application to the Great Lakes Fishery Trust for final design, engineering, environmental studies and related work.

I have not heard anyone address the overall practicality of building a pier at this particular location, yet plans are forging ahead full steam. I believe some vital concerns are being overlooked.

n In the event of an accident or medical emergency on the pier, how are EMS personnel expected to gain access? Where will they park the ambulance(s)? Most public piers I have visited are off a street or parking area so there is rapid emergency access. There is no nearby parking at this location for ambulances (or people with wheelchairs, or fishermen carrying gear…)

n The river mouth can get very shallow, depending on many variables. There is usually only three to four feet of water along the existing 275-foot sheet-pile wall, and sometimes even less at the end of the wall due to sand buildup from the currents and wave action.

n The proposed public pier could likely contribute to additional sand buildup along the river mouth. Is the city prepared to pay for the ongoing dredging that may be necessary to ensure the safety of boat traffic entering and exiting the river along the new pier?

n The project involves widening the pedestrian walkway underneath Murchie Bridge from its present six feet to 12 feet using a “cantilevered” design. There is a sharp “blind” bend in the river just before going under the bridge and the current pushes watercraft toward the outer (walkway) side of the bend. Widening the walkway there will further constrict a navigable channel that is already tricky and narrow.

n Kayak, paddleboard, canoe and personal watercraft traffic is increasing in the river and we have observed that most of those operators do not know the rules of the water, much less how to get out of the way of boat traffic. To narrow the river under the bridge is dangerous. Does the city need another source for potential liability?

n Where the Boardman empties into the bay is delineated on nautical charts, including the red light at the end of the sheet-pile wall marking the entrance to the river. Have the proper governmental entities (Army Corps, Department of Environmental Quality) been advised of (and given their approval for) the plans to narrow the navigable waterway underneath the bridge?

n About costs: In 2009 the price tag for a 354-foot pier was $3.6 million to $4 million, which went up to $4.3 million in 2010. The final cost for this 550-foot pier could easily exceed $5 million to $6 million. Couldn’t those taxpayer dollars be better used elsewhere?

About the author: Deni Scrudato and her husband John have rented a seasonal boat slip on the Boardman River from Traverse City since 1992. She was on the city commission from 2005 to 2009 and questioned early plans for a pier at that time

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