Breakwater gate install

Joe Stickney | courtesy photo

Scott Hansen, Joe Chaffee and Bill Mauer install a portion of the gate for the Ludington North Breakwater. The gate will be closed when the lake conditions are deemed unsafe for foot traffic on the breakwater.

A gate was installed on the Ludington North Breakwater Wednesday morning by the city’s Department of Public Works.

The installation was the culmination of the pursuit of a more permanent barrier in an attempt to keep people from going out on the breakwater when wind drives Lake Michigan’s water over it. Ludington City Manager said the city pursued the gate from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“It took us a little while to get to this point,” Foster said, saying the initial application for the permit to install the gate happened about a year ago. “They approved the permit, and Joe (Stickney, DPW superintendent) got to working on a design and fabricating it.”

The gate became a necessity as the waters of Lake Michigan have reached record heights. Last summer, the breakwater was closed often because of the combination of near-record heights and the wave action of the lake. This year, the lake is projected to reach an all-time record height.

For the gate, all of the work was done in-house by the city.

“It was a group effort,” Stickney said. “I sketched it out on a board in my office on how we wanted to have it look, and all I needed was the measurements.”

Getting those measurements weren’t easy. Stickney said he went on the breakwater in the late winter or early spring when it was still icy. But, he got the measurements for the width of the breakwater, and from there, the department started to put it together.

“It was mostly put together in the mechanics’ bay. Then the DPW installed it this morning,” he said.

The gate is made of steel and it was painted black. Each half of the gate can swing open, and it locks in the center. Foster said signs will be made to warn those on the breakwater that it is closed. But for now, the sawhorses that the DPW was using before will be in place, Stickney said, when necessary.

Stickney said the design allows for the gate to be seasonal. It can be removed in the winter so it is not ravaged by ice floes and more that affect the breakwater.

“It’s something that we can unbolt from the concrete,” Stickney said. “We can take it back and make sure it is OK or repaint it if it needs.”

Stickney said the members of the city that designed, fabricated and installed the gate did a good job.

The gate will need to be physically closed — no push-button system — when the waves of Lake Michigan grow in intensity, Foster said. The rule of thumb there is when every third wave washes over the breakwater.

The Managing Editor for the Ludington Daily News since June 2018 and on the staff since Oct. 2011, taking over for legendary Lloyd Wallace. Previously with The Chippewa Herald in Chippewa Falls, Wis., and the Tuscola County Advertiser in Caro.