It's finally done...well, almost. The $7 million Grand Marais Breakwater Project is days away from completion--$5 million came from the state, a little over $200,000 came from Burt Township, and the rest is from the Army Corps of Engineers. It's been a rocky road, but residents are overjoyed.
"It's been difficult. It's been frustrating, but we are so pleased with the end result. It's just absolutely fantastic," said Wendy Lowe, Grand Marais resident.
"It's wonderful. It's something we've all dreamed about forever, and it's finishing and we're just so happy to see it," said Pat Munger, another Grand Marais resident.
The completed breakwater will make the harbor safer for mariners and reduce the amount of sand that flows in. Residents are expecting tourism to increase. With the calmer waters, some locals are looking forward to being able to ice fish. With stronger waves near the shore, a frozen harbor has been rare.
"Now that we have the breakwall, they're expecting it will freeze over this year. We all hope so because they're building wonderful ice shacks and things to go out to do their ice fishing," Munger said.
Jack Hubbard has worked tirelessly on the project for years. His end of the project is complete. All that remains is for the Army Corps of Engineers to finish placing the remaining armor stones in the 87 feet between the two sections of the breakwater. They are using limestone to rebuild the previous breakwater, but Hubbard chose the darker granite rocks for the new section. They cost about a million dollars extra but may not need maintenance for 100 years, whereas the limestone rocks may need maintenance as much as once every 20 years. He said he wanted to build a structure that would last.
"I would hate to have to see my grandchildren go through what I had to go through or anybody in this community who is here 30 year from now," said Hubbard.
After about six years of work, Hubbard is finally feeling relieved to see his project come to an end.
"It definitely makes me feel very, very good to see that this harbor is going to be saved now, and it's going to be here for generations to come," Hubbard said.
The Army Corps of Engineers will likely place the last stone in the next couple of days. Hubbard said he is considering writing a book of his experiences with the project. He is also immensely thankful to his community that his been by his side the entire way.