Riverbank project nearing completion
After more than four months of work on the Chippewa River riverbank running through campus, the project’s completion is drawing near.
Facilities Planning and Management Director Terry Classen said if the weather cooperates, construction should be done in about one month.
The re-opening of Garfield Avenue will eventually take place; however, Classen was unable to give a timeframe for this because, at the moment, the university is discussing options for the road, which needs to be rebuilt.
Classen said while he originally had hoped to complete the project earlier, small delays prevented that.
The reason construction is taking place during the school year is that the university was unable to obtain the necessary approval and permits from the Department of Natural Resources until July, Classen said.
He added, “It was negotiations with the 3rd Ward Neighborhood Association and people like Sean Hartnett that delayed us getting the permit until July.”
Hartnett, a geography and anthropology professor and an outspoken critic of the riverbank project, could not be reached for comment after repeated attempts by The Spectator from Thursday to Sunday.
Classen explained the 3rd Ward Neighborhood Association, with the help of a pro-bono attorney, worked to delay the process of receiving the approval necessary to start.
“There were a lot of people that were concerned about this project, and it did cause delays,” said Dan Koich, who has overseen the riverbank project for the DNR.
Once the process of discussion was completed, the plan the university arrived at was both necessary and effective, he said.
Koich said the structural weakness created in the bank during flood seasons was caused by debris, like cement the university dumped over the bank and into the river, a high number of storm sewers and the footbridge’s redirection of river currents.
“It became real evident to me that it was unstable,” he said.
Classen defended the dumping of cement pieces from Facilities projects into the river, explaining it had been approved by the DNR at the time and had not been done since the 1980s.
Koich said the plan the university submitted will secure the bank for long-term.
“This bank should stay in its position for thousands of years,” he said.
Now that the project is well into the construction process, both Koich and Classen expressed satisfaction.
“I am extremely pleased with the way it is going,” Classen said.
Next up for the project is covering the rocks with soil and planting new vegetation along the bank. A new railing along the bank also will be added to restrict people and automobiles.
After nearly three years of planning and more than four months of construction, Koich looked back on the project and made an assessment.
“I think it was a very stressful project,” he said, “for everyone involved.”