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Boat launch project nears completion in Lake Nebagamon

In addition to a longer, wider boat launch, a handicap accessible dock and improved stormwater runoff are part of the design.

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Village of Lake Nebagamon residents front, left to right, Roger Salomaki, Jim Jonasen and Dan Schafter chat about the boat landing project underway off of Ravine Park Lane and Waterfront Drive as workers from Superior-based Nordic Group unload precast concrete planks for the project Friday, Oct. 2 in Lake Nebagamon. (Maria Lockwood / mlockwood@superiortelegram.com)
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Years of planning are taking shape in the village of Lake Nebagamon this month.

A new boat launch, 50% funded through a state Department of Natural Resources grant, is under construction at the end of Ravine Park Lane where the former public launch was located. The $168,000 project includes pouring a new concrete approach, doubling the length of the underwater ramp and putting in a new handicap accessible dock and walkway.

An additional $20,000 surface water grant was secured to install a grated trench drain across the top of the boat launch that will capture and divert stormwater runoff to a rocky trough to decrease erosion and sediment runoff.

Work on the boat launch started Sept. 14 and is expected to wrap up Oct. 16. The only piece that won’t be in place until next year is the dock, which must be approved by the village board at its Oct. 13 meeting. With a six-week delivery time, it will arrive too late to install this fall.

On Friday, Oct. 2, the construction crew from Superior-based Nordic Group unloaded stacks of 16-foot wide precast concrete slabs at the intersection of Waterfront Drive and Ravine Park Lane. The planks will be pinned together — similar to a rope bridge — to form the 35-foot underwater section of the ramp.

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A number of residents dropped by the site Friday morning to check the project status, including Roger Salomaki and Dan Schafter with his 4-month-old pup, Boone.

“It’s nice to see the progress,” said Schafter, a bus driver for the Maple School District. “I use this all the time. I’m launching the boat two to three times a week in the summer easy.”

"I hope it works," said Salomaki, who members of the Nordic Group crew said is a daily visitor.

The projects have been in the planning stages for roughly seven years and enjoy wide community support, according to Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Jonasen. The Douglas County Fish and Game League and Nebagamon Lake Association two years ago donated $8,500 to cover engineering costs for the launch and stormwater projects. Half of those costs can now be recouped.

As the only public boat launch on Lake Nebagamon, the area sees steady traffic. In 2019, Clean Boat, Clean Waters monitors inspected 1,925 boats at the launch. Despite its popularity, the spot has been showing its age.

“It was way too short underwater,” Jonasen said. “I measured it at about 15 feet underwater and that was fine 50 years ago when it was put in and people had 12-foot, 14-foot boats and now people have 18- and 20-foot boats like me and pontoons.”

Despite a sign telling people not to power load their boats at the launch, he said, people do. That has washed out the lake bottom at the end of the concrete, causing a drop-off that trailer wheels can fall into.

The village is borrowing money for its roughly $91,000 share of project costs, but that won’t affect the budget bottom line because the board refinanced its other outstanding loans at the current low interest rates.

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“The money we’re saving out of refinancing will pay for the monthly loan on this project, so there is no increase in the funds dispersed (from the budget),” Jonasen said.

Lake Nebagamon residents were warned about the one-month shutdown, yet a number of pontoons dotted the lakeshore across from the launch Friday. Operating Foreman Shawn Kunnari with Nordic Group said work was going well.

It's been a busy year for construction, he said, and some area projects have been impacted by pandemic-related material delays. Work on the Lake Nebagamon launch is currently on schedule.

"There's always hiccups along the way, but you make up for it other ways," Kunnari said.

Jonasen has been working on the project for years, as a village board member and now on the public works committee.

“It’s exciting to see it,” he said. " There’s been a lot of thinking and planning, a lot of effort by a lot of people to make this happen."

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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