The City of Algoma learned this week that it was among 26 grant recipients from the Fund for Lake Michigan. The city will receive $75,000 to take the first step in a plan to improve the city’s centerpiece, Crescent Beach.
In the past, Crescent Beach has had problems both with E. coli and cladophora. It was on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s impaired waters list from 2006 to 2012. A report published in 2012 found numerous contributors to the pollution problems, including flocks of gulls and geese, wind direction and municipal infrastructure.
The grant will address a municipal infrastructure problem, specifically six stormwater outfalls that discharge directly onto the beach, which the report stated “convey pollutants such as bacteria, nutrients, oils, sediment, and heavy metals into the nearshore water.”
“The purpose we hope to meet with this grant is to redo stormwater outfall at Crescent Beach,” said Algoma Administrator Jeff Wiswell. “It’s something which will enhance water quality and it will also help us with our beach health and sanitation. This is the first phase of a number of phases and activities that can be done to improve the beach. But the beach is already one of the most popular beaches in the state of Wisconsin. I think it’s ranked No. five or five in a Gannett poll conducted a year or two ago. We’re trying to do everything we can to enhance the popularity of the beach, and this is one of the steps in doing this.”
Wiswell added that grants are really necessary for the city to improve the health of the beach.
“It’s a great thing because, unlike some of our sister municipalities in Door County, we have limited bonding capacity to do these projects because our assessed valuation is often times much lower at the total municipal level,” he said. “In other words, if you stack us up in terms of our assessed valuation with let’s say Liberty Grove, the Village of Sister Bay, Sturgeon Bay, etc., we don’t have borrowing capacity. For us it’s very important that we receive grants. We just flat out have some real problems doing projects without some kind of assistance.”
Casey Eggleston, program officer of the Fund for Lake Michigan, said Algoma’s Crescent Beach project is a perfect for the organization’s new focus on beach quality.
“Our mission is improving the water quality of Lake Michigan, which you can do in a lot of ways,” he said. “But beaches are where the public really interacts with the lake. We want them to have good experience. It really makes sense and it’s been a new focus for us. We’re working on more and more beaches, and Algoma is a great fit for us. It’s a beautiful beach. For a community that size to have a two-mile long beach, it’s iconic for the area, but being that size, it’s also a big challenge for a community that size to keep it healthy for beachgoers, so it was a good fit for us. It’s a community that loves its beach with a dedicated friends group, but it’s also a community that can’t do this on its own.
“This is the first step in making that beach healthier,” Eggleston continued. “This will deal with six stormwater outfalls that are coming right out over the beach. It will redirect that stormwater to a more appropriate place. That stormwater runoff is what causes the cladophora there. It’s a corner with the harbor wall that doesn’t get a lot of current cleaning it out. It’s a bunch of things coming together to cause problems.”
“It’s excellent news for Crescent Beach,” said Cathy Pabich of the Friends of Crescent Beach. “It’s an important first step in getting the resources we need to improve our beach and address the stormwater drainage issues that affect the beach right now. It’s a big first step to celebrate our beach.”
Next up for Crescent Beach, Wiswell said he is putting the final touches on what could be a significant grant from the EPA to continue work on phase 1 of the beach improvement project, which he estimates will cost $250,000.
Continuing its vital work to protect and improve water quality, the Fund for Lake Michigan has just awarded nearly $1.4 million in private grants aimed at improving beaches, reducing polluted runoff and restoring critical habitat in Wisconsin.
The 25 other projects receiving a portion of the total of $1.4 million in grants stretch from Kenosha to Marinette and range from restoration of Harrington Beach State Park north of Port Washington to helping advance one of the country’s largest fish passage projects on the Menominee River.
A full of list of grants is available at http://fundforlakemichigan.org/images/pdf/Grantsummaries.pdf.