Workshop focuses on aging coastal infrastructure in the Great Lakes

A scoping workshop on the current condition and future viability of coastal protection infrastructure in the Great Lakes was held October 10 and 11, 2007 in Duluth. The workshop, hosted by the Great Lakes Commission and the NOAA Coastal Services Center (CSC) with participation from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network, focused on such coastal structures as piers and breakwaters, many of which are aging and showing signs of deterioration.

Increased risk posed by deteriorating infrastructure was one of the concerns that emerged from a 2006 needs assessment conducted under a Great Lakes Commission – NOAA CSC joint project agreement.

According to the Corps of Engineers, over half of the coastal structures on the Great Lakes were built before World War I and over 80 percent are older than their typical 50-year design life span. The oldest structures were built with timber crib core sections which deteriorate more rapidly when exposed to air during periods of low lake levels. One objective of the workshop was to identify potential impacts of climate change, for which most models project long term low water levels for the Great Lakes.

Looking ahead, the workshop took initial steps to explore new strategies for maintaining infrastructure no longer considered a federal budgetary priority.

Workshop participants included coastal engineers and coastal zone managers, state and local government personnel, commercial port interests and representatives of the recreational boating community.

Following the workshop, a Duluth-Superior harbor tour by boat provided a first hand look at several examples of harbor infrastructure issues including deteriorating timber, concrete and steel structures. Of special interest were examples of the widespread, accelerated corrosion damage to sheet steel piling in the harbor which is currently under intensive investigation.

For more information contact Dave Knight at the Great Lakes Commission, dknight@glc.org, 734-971-9135.

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