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Council approves lakefront restoration planning efforts

Wants to restore land to more useful state

Sept. 5, 2012

Oak Creek - The Common Council took a step toward a cleaner lakefront Tuesday, approving a partnership with SmithGroup JJR to plan bluff stabilization and storm water containment and drainage projects.

The city expects the planning for the two projects to cost a total of $235,000.

SmithGroup JJR would help the city find the most cost-effective way to restore the bluffs along Lake Michigan and research the best way to keep contaminated water from the lake.

Past still haunts

Oak Creek's lakefront has a legacy of damage caused by 100 years of heavy industrial work that contaminated the water, destabilized the bluffs and denied the public access to the lakefront, City Administrator Gerald Peterson said.

"The plan that we have is to address the environmental issues there and put the property back to reuse the lakefront for the public and reuse some of the more upland properties," he said. "We have residential uses as well as various business uses in the area. There are park structures, road structures and opportunities to use the lakefront for public means."

The approval is reliant on an $83,000 grant from the state that hasn't come through yet, and that means the projects may get nixed in coming months.

But Peterson said he is confident the state will provide the grant to Oak Creek, and that the city should know for certain whether it has been awarded in December.

"If we don't get the grant, we'll have to re-huddle and figure out if we want to spend the $240,000 for all of this work with city funds," he said.

Tangible work to come

The city passed a master plan last year for restoring the lakefront. The next steps the city will take are the extension of Highway 100 to Fifth Avenue, acquiring land and moving soil.

The city has conceptually, but not formally, offered $10 million in funds through utility taxes. Residents won't see tangible work on the lakefront until late this year or early next year, Peterson said.

"This is a more exciting aspect," he said. "The planning is always interesting, but now we're moving into terms of getting those things done. I think that's what the public wants to see. The public hasn't seen a lot of activity out there. A lot has been going on behind the scenes getting the property ready for reuse. We're going to see some real change out here in the lakefront. I think this shows the city is serious about this."

Mayor Stephen Scaffidi offered his support, adding: "This makes sense. One, because we're going to get a grant to help pay for it, and two, it has to be done if we're ever going to open the area to development. That's 260-plus acres on our lakefront that have been frankly ignored for 80 years."

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