Village Trying to Plug Rising Water

A river of water has been flowing along the curb in front of Boathouse by the Bay all summer, and the current shows no sign of slowing. It’s happening because the basement of the Sister Bay restaurant and that of a neighboring rental property have flooded due to the rising water table, forcing the Boathouse owners to pump as much as 420 gallons of water per minute into the street and storm drain. 

Village Administrator Beau Bernhoft said the issue has been one of his top priorities since taking the job in June. 

“It’s not the village’s fault or the landowner’s fault,” he said. “We’ve spent some hours trying to figure out how to get the water off of the road, potentially using old capped lines or old stormwater lines.”

He credited the Boathouse for taking the step of building a wooden bridge over the hoses that run water into the street.  

John Kenneavy owned the building from 1976 to 1993, when he ran Kenneavy’s Kitchen. During the mid-1980s, the lake water rose to record levels, and by 1985, he was pumping 250,000 gallons of water out of his basement every day. 

“I had two commercial pumps, and eventually a third one, going 24/7 for 365 days a year for three and a half years,” he said. 

When the water rises this high, it penetrates the foundation of these structures. Keneavy said he had everything in his basement up on pallets and stored as little as he could there.

One option would be to fill the basement with cement. Boathouse owner Mike Daubner said he could pump filler into cracks and holes in his basement, but he’s been told that eventually that could create more pressure from the backed-up water, which would cause greater damage and bigger problems. 

Bernhoft said the village hopes to find a solution to the problem soon. 

Shuttle Ridership Growing

Sister Bay Advancement Association (SBAA) assistant coordinator Miluzka McCarthy presented an update on the shuttle service that was relaunched in July. Despite losing more than a day to repairs, ridership of the 16-passenger shuttle continues to grow.

The shuttle gave rides to 460 people during the weekend of Aug. 1-3, despite being out of service for a day due to a $2,600 repair. Had it not lost a day of service, it would have surpassed 500 riders in a week for the first time since launching June 29. To date, 2,153 people have taken advantage of the free service. 

McCarthy said the majority of ridership is coming during the evenings from visitors at local lodging establishments. The shuttle operates Thursday through Saturday, 11-1 am. When the village operated a trolley service in 2017, it did not keep detailed ridership information but estimated 40 riders per day. 

Riders can now track the location of the shuttle on

Tree Donation Declined

The committee declined a donation of white pines offered to encircle the baseball field at the Sister Bay Sports Complex. The committee said there was no need for the additional trees. 

Fall Fest Craft Fair Moves

The Sister Bay Advancement Association continues to work on creating a new home for the Fall Fest arts-and-crafts fair. The fair has long been located on Mill Road east of Highway 42, but now that two new hotels have been constructed on that stretch, the road must remain open for public-safety vehicles. 

The SBAA has relocated the Lions Club car show to the parking lot on Mill Road to make room for the arts-and-crafts fair along Mill Road at Waterfront Park. The fair is the SBAA’s largest moneymaker, bringing in $10,000 each year. 

The new location could be less than ideal in high winds and bad weather, however, so the SBAA would like to create a wind barrier behind the tents. It proposed creating a wall of straw bales, but those could damage the park’s sprinkler system. The committee asked Parks Manager Dan Lundquist to investigate options for wind barriers. 

Pickleball Gets Court Time

The Village Parks Committee designated times for open play of the increasingly popular game of pickleball at the tennis courts: Saturdays, 9-11 am, and Mondays, 1-3 pm. The courts were striped for pickleball earlier this year. Sturgeon Bay approved additional courts at its Sunset Park in July. 

Freedom Fest to Remain Low-Key

The committee elected not to accept additional vendors at Freedom Fest, which is held on the Saturday after Independence Day week. It features fireworks donated by Jody Wuollett of CHOP and a booth run by the Lions Club. 

“The goal is not to become a festival,” committee member Denise Bhirdo said, “so we’re not recruiting or accepting vendors.”

Beach Bathrooms Open Friday

The new bathrooms at Waterfront Park are expected to open Friday, Bernhoft said, and will include a family stall with a changing room. 

As that improvement is completed, committee member Sharon Doersching expressed concern about the beach being taken over by dune grass. The grass was installed when the beach was expanded several years ago, but Doersching is concerned that it’s spreading and could eventually take over the entire beach. 

Chair Dave Lienau explained that the grass on the inland side of the walkway is only temporary and can be removed in the future. The dune grass on the water side, however, is required by the grant that the village received to pay for much of the beach improvement. The grasses are there to stop stormwater runoff, while the grasses on the water side are meant to stop sand from flowing away from the beach. 

Lienau said Bob Bultman, a county board supervisor and invasive-species expert, has volunteered to evaluate the grasses to give the village suggestions.

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