Sen. Tammy Baldwin visits Algoma to tout $19 million allocation for 110-year-old pier repair
ALGOMA – U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin touted the federal infrastructure bill signed into law last fall in the city and took a view of the site of a coming $19 million project the bill will fund on the Lake Michigan shoreline.
Baldwin, D-Madison, met with city officials and other interested parties May 6 to learn more about the work needed on the 110-year-old South Pier on the Algoma waterfront and talk about Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that is providing the funds for the project.
The infrastructure act, aka the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, is providing about $1.2 trillion in federal funds over the next five years for a variety of projects across the country, from work on roads, bridges and other transportation needs to upgrading power and energy stations to water quality improvement to increasing broadband accessibility.
The Senate approved the package on a 69-30 vote last August, with the U.S. House of Representatives voting in favor 228-206 in early November and President Joe Biden signing the bill shortly afterward. The funds are coming mostly from unused COVID-19 relief dollars, and it is hoped the projects funded by the act will create as many as 1.5 million jobs, according to the government.
"It's very much a once-in-a-generation bill that looks at a lot of different types of infrastructure," Baldwin said at the Algoma event.
City officials learned the pier repairs would be covered under the bill in February, but then-Mayor Wayne Schmitt said they decided to wait until the weather was more temperate to invite Baldwin to make an official announcement of the $19 million allocated to the pier.
Baldwin met with the media and delivered some remarks at the Algoma Youth Club along with Algoma public works director Matt Murphy before the gathering went outside and crossed the street in front of the club to head onto the pier, where Murphy pointed out some of the damage that needs to be repaired.
The South Pier, at the north end of Crescent Beach, is under federal control. It serves as a breakwater on the south side of the city marina and allows people to stroll out more than 1,500 feet into Lake Michigan, with its terminus just across the marina entrance from the Algoma Pierhead Lighthouse.
More than 100 years of wear and tear and erosion from waves on the lake, as well as extremely high lake water levels in recent years, have taken their toll on the pier. An inspection two years ago by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers showed the surface and parts of the concrete underneath were crumbling, and the Corps did a temporary patchwork repair last spring.
"If you want an example of crumbling infrastructure, look at this 110-year-old breakwater in Algoma," Baldwin said.
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The Algoma visit was the second of the day for Baldwin, who earlier had visited the Sheboygan Water Utility to highlight the $2 million the infrastructure act will provide for improvements to the utility.
"All of my visits have been focused on water. That makes me think of Wisconsin," Baldwin said. "We identify with our water. It's very important to protect it on our lakeshores, our shorelands, our coasts and waterways."
Murphy said he's talked with the Corps of Engineers about the pier three times since the spring of 2019, about a year after he became public works director, "when I realized we had a serious problem with the south breakwater." He said he thinks that continued communication with the Corps may have led them to include and prioritize the pier in its list of projects under the infrastructure act.
Baldwin said work on the pier will be one of the first projects the Corps of Engineers will conduct under the infrastructure act, hoping to begin next year. Murphy said although the Corps is in charge of the project, the current plan is for 100% of the work be done by contractors.
In her remarks, Baldwin noted the economic impact the pier repairs should make on Algoma, which draws thousands of people a year to the adjacent beach, the harbor and for commercial guided fishing on the lake. Visitors often stroll the pier or fish from it.
"We know this also is a community treasure people use, and it also protects the boats in the harbor," Baldwin said. "(The waterfront) is a big draw. You have the marina, a very robust commercial (fishing) fleet, so there's a lot of economic development potential."
"I'm absolutely thrilled. It's a wonderful opportunity," said Common Council member Jake Maring, who attended the event. "I did a little dance when I heard about (the bill's passage)."
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Sen. Tammy Baldwin visits Algoma to tout $19 million allocation for 110-year-old pier repair