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Posted 1/4/2017

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By Dr. Michael D. Izard-Carroll
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers


Superstorm Sandy is known for its widespread destruction and follows Hurricane Katrina as the second-costliest storm on record in the United States. The storm was so significant that even coastal structures along the Great Lakes sustained damages. Due to the widespread damages across the nation, Congress set aside special funds designated for repairs linked to the storm; the goal was to return the channels and structures to their pre-storm conditions.

A total of nine breakwaters along Lake Erie became official Superstorm Sandy projects for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District. Most recently, the Buffalo District completed repairs to sections of breakwaters in Cleveland Harbor, Lorain Harbor, Fairport Harbor, and Port Clinton—each along Lake Erie’s southern shore.

In addition to the structural damages Superstorm Sandy inflicted, a number of shipping channels were burdened with extra sediment from storm wave action which tremendously impacted navigation. As a result, local economies along the Great Lakes suffered as ships had to carry lighter loads because the channels were too shallow for them to carry full loads. To correct this, the Corps of Engineers took on 12 dredging projects in addition to the nine breakwater repair projects totaling approximately $86 million.

Part of the successful execution of these projects was due to establishing a program-level masterplan  which scheduled all project activities to ensure resources were not overburdened, such as hiring contractors who specialized in the type of work needed or the quarrying of sufficient quantities of stone. While the Superstorm Sandy supplemental funds were managed at a program level, each project was bid on separately and individual contracts were awarded in fiscal year 2013. Because of the common issues each project had, project managers eliminated duplicative work by using completed activities as templates for the next project in the lineup.

“There was tremendous oversight and coordination for these projects which allowed the projects to be completed in a timely manner”, said Geoffrey Hintz, Project Manager with the Buffalo District. Mr. Hintz managed several of the breakwater projects.

Adding to challenges, not all breakwater structures have the same design. The east breakwater in Cleveland Harbor, for example, is comprised of thousands of concrete dolosse—large, interlocking structures that form a porous wall. Their unique design allows wave energy to dissipate rather than be blocked as it would with a solid stone wall. To put the size of the Cleveland East dolosse breakwater project into perspective, the required repairs involved the placement of over 18,000 dolosse, each weighing 6.5 tons. Underneath the dolosse was placed approximately 32,058 tons of bedding stone, each weighing two to five hundred pounds and 29,473 tons of underlayer stone, each weighing one to four thousand pounds. Repairs to the East breakwater began in June 2015 and were completed in November 2016. 

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ innovative repair project ensures the continued protection of Northeast Ohio’s waterways and strengthens the region’s burgeoning shipping and manufacturing industries for generations to come”, said Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11).

“This coordinated effort, to repair the East breakwater of the Cleveland Harbor, is a perfect example of how important public infrastructure projects are for keeping our ports and other critical transportation systems open for business,” said Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (OH-09).

The Lorain Harbor East Arrowhead breakwater was repaired using a rubblemound armor stone overlay instead of dolosse. Rubblemound repair is less costly than using laid up stone or installing dolosse and is the preferred repair design method. Sandy had damaged four reaches and the boat landing along approximately 1,200 linear feet of the East breakwater. The repair work completed in November 2016.  

Fairport Harbor needed nearly twice the amount of repair work as Lorain Harbor, totaling about 2,300 linear feet of breakwater. Damaged navigation light structures were also repaired or replaced. Work began in fall 2015, shut down over the winter, and restarted in June 2016 for completion in December. Port Clinton’s East jetty repairs were started in September 2016 and were completed by November 2016.

One of the ongoing missions of the Corps of Engineers is to maintain infrastructure in the Unites States. In the case of the Great Lakes breakwaters damaged by Hurricane Sandy, the Buffalo District can now declare “mission accomplished”.

breakwater Buffalo District Cleveland Harbor Corps of Engineers Dolosse Fairport Harbor great lakes Lake Erie Lorain Harbor Port Clinton superstorm sandy USACEBuffalo