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Posted 2/27/2015

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By Andrew Kornacki
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District


Off the shores of Cleveland Harbor, rising out of Lake Erie like a wave of concrete and stones, sits the Cleveland Breakwater offering 24,570 feet of safe navigation and protection for the harbor.

The first pieces of the breakwater were built in 1827 and over the last century further construction has transformed it into what we see today.  Over the years, Lake Erie ice and wave action has put the structure to the test, but annual operation and maintenance has helped it to function as it was designed.

It was not until Hurricane Sandy, October 2012, that Mother Nature proved too much for the structure and the breakwater sustained a significant amount of damage.

“The Cleveland Harbor Breakwater experienced the most damage of any breakwater along Lake Erie during Sandy because of the 30+ foot waves and the extreme angle they were hitting the structure,” said Geoff Hintz, Buffalo District project manager.

After Sandy the breakwater was evaluated to determine just how much work would be need to repair the structure.

“We started by dividing the breakwater into 100 foot sections and then went section by section comparing 2012 conditions to post-Sandy conditions.” said CPT Kelly Polashenski, Buffalo District project manager.  “This allowed us to determine what sections could be repaired using Super Storm Sandy funds and what sections needed repair but were not damaged by Sandy.  Those sections would be repaired using operation and maintenance (O&M) funding.”

Evaluations of the structure showed that sections of the Cleveland East Breakwater and Cleveland East & West Arrowhead Breakwaters would need to be repaired.  In total, $35.4 million in Sandy and $1.2 million of O&M funding would be used to complete the repairs. 

“The first repair, costing $4.2 million, of 1,380 linear feet on the East & West Arrowheads began and was finished in 2014.  The contractor, Faust Corporation of St. Clair Shores, MI, set stone 24/7 and completed the work ahead of schedule,” said Hintz. 

Work on the East Breakwater also began in 2014, where $1.2 million in O&M and $6.3 million of Sandy funding was authorized to repair 2,660 linear feet.  Repairs using set stone are scheduled to be completed in early 2015 by Great Lakes Dock & Materials L.L.C., Muskegon, MI. 

The most eastern portion of the East Breakwater sustained the most severe impact from the storm.  A more robust design for the repair was implemented using precast, 6.5 ton geometric concrete blocks known as dolosse.

“A total of 3,200 linear feet of breakwater will be repaired using dolosse,” said Polashenski.  “As part of the $24.9 million dollar contract, 12,577 dolosse will be cast by Lindsay Concrete Products Co., located south of Cleveland in Canal Fulton, Ohio.”

The East Breakwater repair using dolosse is set to begin in July 2015 and finish at the end of the construction season 2016.

“The work will be intense,” said Polashenski.   “Each of the dolosse will have to be transported to the breakwater, and then meticulously placed. Special software will be used to help with the placement to verify the structures are interlocked to meet design placement density.”

The Cleveland Harbor Breakwater infrastructure restoration work has proved critical to Cleveland Harbor keeping the navigation system on track for meeting the needs of the nation. Historical and ongoing effort has resulted in over $3.6 billion per year in transportation savings. The breakwater also contributes to flood damage protection for the City of Cleveland, valued at approximately $1 billion of regional value.

breakwater Buffalo District Cleveland Corps of Engineers Dolosse harbor Huricane infrastructure navigation repair sandy USACE