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Plan for beach restoration goes public

AMI Consulting Engineers A rendering shows what Barker's Island beach could look like under a plan to restore the impaired area. The existing three beaches would be consolidated to into one according to the preliminary plan.

Three small beaches could become one according to a preliminary plan to restore the beach on Barker's Island.

Restrooms, a picnic area, a sidewalk near Marina Drive, a boardwalk, porous pavers, new vegetation and wetland restoration are all part of the plan to address bacterial contamination that has caused beach advisories and closures on Barker's Island.

The project is made possible with a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources because the beach is among those listed as impaired, said Linda Cadotte, Superior parks, recreation and forestry director.

The city has been working with the Wisconsin DNR, Lake Superior Research Institute and AMI Consulting Engineers to develop the plan.

"The purpose of the project is the restoration of the beach and the recreation area," said Karl Everett, project manager with AMI.

The design utilizes low-impact design principles to alleviate the E.coli problem, Everett said. Construction for the project is expected to take place later this year.

"Currently, there are some water quality issues that are affecting this area," said Bethany Rosemore, water resource scientist with AMI. "Contamination has been tracked over the last decade and there have been numerous beach advisories and beach closures."

She said stormwater runoff from the road and asphalt paths, waterfowl and gulls that frequent the area, and pets are contributing to the problem. Compacted sand on the beach is allowing the runoff to enter the water without being filtered. In many areas, water is standing on the island.

"Twenty-two out of 22 times they sampled this area they were found in exceedance of regulatory standards," Rosemore said. She said when contamination was found, DNA testing revealed the source was human fecal bacteria in 53 percent of the time.

"The goal is to reduce the E.coli contamination in the area, and improve water quality and increase beach use," said Eli Rupnow, AMI project engineer. "This is done through better stormwater management."

The plan includes using porous pavers and vegetative swales to manage stormwater, improving sand quality and centralizing the beach area, Rupnow said.

It will include wetland restoration and vegetation to filter and absorb stormwater to address the problems.

In addition to centralizing the beach area, the small parking areas at each beach will be consolidated. The result will take the area from 10 spaces available now up to 28 when the project is complete.

Plans include moving the fishing pier from its current location closer to the marina. That would move it closer to the fish-cleaning station and move waterfowl that gather on the pier downstream from the beach.

Another thing that would help is not feeding the birds, which is not good for the birds and can result in overconcentration of birds in the area, Everett said.

Signs posted on the island call attention to city ordinances that prohibit feeding gulls and waterfowl, which can result in beach closures.

The preliminary plan will be presented to the city in mid-February, and another public meeting will be held before the city receives the final plan with cost estimates at the end of April.

Cadotte encouraged people to take a look at the presentation that was made Wednesday night, which will be posted on the city's website at ci.superior.wi.us and comment before the plan is finalized.

"It's really dark on the island," said Shannon Olson, manager of Barker's Island Inn, suggesting more lights. She questioned what impact the construction would have for residents and customers of the hotel and convention center.

"There will be no significant shutdowns (of Marina Drive)" Cadotte said. "The goal is to get it done while there is still time to enjoy it this year."

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