Port Washington getting nearly $1 million for breakwater repairs

PORT WASHINGTON (WITI) -- The Port Washington breakwaters are quite beautiful in winter, with all the ice, but if you walk out on them right now, you risk getting a ticket. That's because the breakwaters are unstable, but nearly $1 million in federal dollars should help with the fix.

"By nature, you know, you're gonna reach a point where their life is over," Port Washington Mayor Tom Mlada said.

Beneath the ice, it's hard to make out the deterioration of the Port Washington breakwater, but the Army Corps of Engineers says 50% to 60% of the structure along Lake Michigan is failing.

"The issue is, these structures are 85 years old or so. The bottom line is, anything that sits in the water for an extended period of time and suffers through a freeze thaw cycle. You suffer some deterioration," Mayor Mlada said.

The breakwaters are popular with visitors who come to the harbor to fish or walk to the lighthouse -- but since November, signs have been posted, warning people to walk at their own risk.

Mlada went to Washington to advocate for funding for breakwater repairs -- estimated between $16 million and $17 million.

He left Washington uncertain whether the city would get any federal funding.

Then, this week, he learned Port Washington is getting $950,000 in 2014 for the north breakwater.

"We didn`t frankly anticipate that we would see any money anytime soon, so this most recent news is really a bonus. We know that's basically one-sixteenth of the puzzle, so there's a lot more work to be done. It will be great to have a new concrete cap and we'll celebrate that. We'll be very appreciative. We also know that if you have a beautiful concrete cap and it fails next year, it's really for naught, so we know there's a lot more work to be done relative to the structure of it," Mayor Mlada said.

Mlada says he hopes to start construction on the new cap for the breakwater by early summer. The cap will make it safe for pedestrians to walk there again.

Mayor Mlada says he encourages people to keep writing to their congressmen and senators to ask for funding to continue the repairs.

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