Ore Dock Three Part Series: Past, Present and Future
Posted by Gisele Duehring on
Link to UP Matters 3 Part Series
Direct links to parts 1-3
THE TRANSCRIPTS (with comments in bold)
From The Past: (no comments on this section)
A three part series of the past, present and future of the Ore Dock in Marquette’s Lower Harbor begins with the Ore Dock you see now, which is the 6th dock and called the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Dock.
“At one time, Marquette had three functional ore docks operating in the Lower Harbor simultaneously,” recalled Marquette Maritime Museum’s Board President Fred Stonehouse. “This, of course, is the last one that is left.”
The current dock was built almost 90 years ago, in 1931. “Construction began in April of that year,” said Beth Gruber, Assistant Librarian at the John M. Longyear Research Library. “It was completed by June of 1932.”
The Ore Dock was used to ship iron ore to local mines, primarily the Tracy Mine. In the 40 years the dock was in operation, it shipped almost 24 million tons of iron ore. “The first year it was in operation, it shipped 122,000 tons of iron ore,” said Gruber. “Its peak year was in 1969, and that year, it shipped 1.16 million tons of ore.”
However, the Ore Dock served more than just one purpose, and was vital to the United States military during World War II, as well. “This was a critical facility for shipping all that raw material that went into the fleets and other military equipment that actually won the war,” explained Marquette City Planner David Stensaas.
The Ore Dock officially closed on December 31 of 1971, as a result of the closing of the Tracy Mine.
There is an urban legend that there was a body found here at the Ore Dock in the mid-80s, but historians say it’s not a legend. “October of 1988, a couple of teens were trespassing on the dock, and they found a body up in one of the ore pockets,” said Gruber. “It was identified as a local transient resident named Timothy Lane. He was 17 when he went missing in 1986. They think that he slipped and fell – they didn’t find any broken bones, but they suspected that he either died from internal injuries or exposure.”
Stay tuned to Local 3 News Thursday night where we’ll focus on the present day Lower Harbor Ore Dock.
From The Present:
In part two of the series on the past, present and future of the Ore Dock in Marquette’s Lower Harbor, we focus on the present day Ore Dock.
Today, the Ore Dock stands as a symbol – a vivid reminder of Marquette’s history. However, it does have a current-day function, too.
“The present use of the dock is actually is a windbreak,” explained Marquette Maritime Museum’s Board President Fred Stonehouse. “Because when you think about it, and when we do get strong winds from the south or southeast, the Ore Dock – the structure of that dock – breaks those wind speeds.”
The Ore Dock has been owned by the City of Marquette since 2002. Marquette’s City Planner David Stensaas said, “Presently, this structure is under a 25 year lease agreement with the State of Michigan. And that extends to 2023 with another 25 year extension period, that would take it to 2048.” However, the lease allows the Ore Dock to only be used for marina purposes, but city officials say what that means is not specified.
[Question: If the 25-yr agreement began in 2002, wouldn’t the lease be through 2027 and if so an additional 25 years would take it out to 2052? Regarding the allowable use, Senator Casperson encouraged us to get specifics from the DEQ, including citing which laws apply.]
“There are no real accommodations that make it safe for the public to use it, even as a marina for docking boats, or any other kind of facility right now,” said Stensaas.
[Note the City’s concern for SAFETY, which was also stated in GEI’s report. Assure people that our design will take into account the following: safety, constructibility, preservation, cost, aesthetics, the environment, and the ability to operate and maintain the facility.]
Last year, a structural study found that the Ore Dock is in good condition. “The City Commission financed a study to see its integrity and how long it would last and what needed to be done and whether it was safe or not, which was completed just a few months ago,” said Marquette’s Mayor Mike Coyne. “It was a great study.”
[It was a good start. And even if the City proceeds with only a promenade, additional assessment will be needed.]
The Ore Dock here at Marquette’s Lower Harbor is also unique because it is the only dock – other than the one at Presque Isle – that is really publicly accessible.
[Note the UNIQUENESS due to public accessibility: Currently, public accessibility is a misnomer since neither dock is accessible to public entry and use, but only for photo ops from shore.]
“If you’re a tourist, and want to see one either loading a boat in actuality or just what the dock looks like, you can’t,” said Stonehouse. “But here in Marquette, we can really become up close and personal with both of our ore docks.”
[Perhaps on option is to leave part of the dock as it is, especially since it is has so much more architectural character than, e.g., the utilitarian ore conveyor in Escanaba.]
“Tourists always are asking me, ‘What is that? Why is it there?’ said Mayor Coyne. “It is a historic structure and part of the culture of this area, and it’s kind of an icon in the community.”
An interesting fact is the study that was done showed that the cold, clear water of Lake Superior actually helped in preserving the Ore Dock.
Stay tuned for the final part of our past, present and future look at the Ore Dock where we’ll look at what plans are being laid out for its future.
From The Future:
In the final part of our series on the Ore Dock’s past, present and future, we look at its future.
The future of the Ore Dock in Marquette’s Lower Harbor is something many people are curious about, and everyone has different opinions.
“I’m happy with it just the way it is, right now, personally,” said Marquette’s Mayor Mike Coyne. “I’m open to ideas and I think the Commission is, and I think it’s fine the way it is right now because of what it is – it’s like a statue to our culture.”
Marquette Maritime Museum’s Board President Fred Stonehouse said, “The opportunity, perhaps, to put a public promenade around the dock, to allow folks to be able to get out and enjoy our lakefront from a uniquely different perspective.”
Although some people would like to see the Ore Dock gone, Beth Gruber, Assistant Librarian at the John M. Longyear Research Library, said, “I’d like to see it stay. It’s definitely an iconic part of Marquette’s history, and it always brings questions.”
Marquette’s City Planner says it’s subject to the city commission’s approval. “Any other uses for the facility are really subject to the City Commission, the elected officials, taking that on and creating a public planning process for any proposed future uses.” However, Mayor Coyne says it’s out of their hands, too.
[Key point: “…creating a public planning process…”]
“The city doesn’t have any money to do anything – it would have to be private development,” said Coyne. “The future really is in the hands of developers, I think, because it’s going to cost a lot of money to do anything with it, and it’s also going to have to require a lot of negotiating with the Department of Natural Resources, who basically controls what happens there.”
[Correction– rather than the DNR, the MDEQ Water Division and the Army Corps of Engineers are the agencies under whose jurisdiction this falls. This reminds me that one of my mentors for working with City of Marquette government, etc. is to aim to be more prepared than they are going into meetings.]
Either way, the future of the Ore Dock is brighter than ever before, knowing now that it is structurally sound and in good condition.
“The dock’s about 969 feet long,” said Stonehouse. “So, we could almost gain over 2,000 foot of waterfront by doing that with the Ore Dock.”
The development of the Ore Dock would probably cost about $60-100 million for many of the proposed ideas.
[When people ask what it will cost, one way to keep a generic estimate is to list the total square feet of one level and then point out that if development cost were between $X and $Y per square foot, the cost range would be whatever that adds up to, and then point out that if the Center had 2 levels, that would more than double the estimate due to addition of elevators, water pumps, etc.]
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Study: Lower Harbor ore dock in good condition
Posted by Gisele Duehring on
Familiar structure closed since 1971
December 26, 2014
MARQUETTE – After being closed more than 40 years ago, Marquette’s Lower Harbor ore dock could be up and running with little effort, according to engineers with GEI Consultants in Marquette.
GEI conducted an above- and below-water structural assessment of the ore dock in June and reported to the Marquette City Commission last week that the structure was in good shape overall.
“I was pretty impressed,” said Michael Carpenter, senior project manager with GEI. “That structure, like, if someone wanted to use it again, start it up, they could do it without much effort. Get those motors going, those hoists would be operable in a few days; it wouldn’t take much at all.”
According to the city’s website, the dock was constructed from 1931-32 for the Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic Railroad at a cost of $1.32 million.
Nearly 24 million tons of ore left Marquette through the Lower Harbor between the dock’s first day of service, June 3, 1932, and its closure in 1971.
The 970-foot dock is about 66 feet wide, constructed mostly of steel and concrete and towers about 86 feet above the water.
The dock’s eight distinct sections are supported by a steel-reinforced concrete base and about 7,600 10- to 16-inch-wide timber piles that were driven into bedrock beneath Lake Superior’s surface.
While in operation, iron was transported via rail to the top of the dock, dumped into the structure’s storage bins and emptied through chutes into vessels waiting below.
Carpenter said consultants compared the current structure to original design drawings and checked for any inconsistencies and deterioration beyond normal aging. However, a more in-depth assessment would need to be conducted in the event future developers are considering modifying the structure with additional weight loads.
GEI estimated a cost of about $800,000 to address concerns found during the assessment, though the company admitted a contractor may be able to provide more accurate estimates.
Consultants said the most noticeable deterioration was of the timber fender system along the outside of the dock, in which vegetation has begun to grow, and the structure’s concrete surface, which can allow moisture to corrode exposed steel reinforcement.
There was also minor deterioration to the perimeter piles and loose chunks of concrete and wood decking that were deemed falling safety hazards.
GEI presented the city with three options it could take. The city could do nothing and keep the dock closed to the public and develop a safety plan for limited access to prevent injuries.
Opening the dock to public access was another option, but that would require additional safety upgrades.
“I think the main concern is falling hazards from concrete on the superstructure (and) debris that’s up overhead,” said George Meister, with GEI Consultants. “Some of that’s in degraded condition and if that was cleaned off and some of the vegetation cleared up around the outside of the ore dock, I think (public access) would be possible …”
Improving the walkway from the shore to the dock, installing railings and lighting and any repairs to damaged concrete should also be considered.
The public option would not violate a bottomlands agreement between the city and the state that limits how the dock can be redeveloped.
“We’re not allowed to use it in any manner other than what the existing footprint of the structure looks like,” Marquette City Manager Bill Vajda said.
The third option the city could take would allow for commercial development, but could be problematic considering the agreement.
The 25-year bottomlands agreement is in effect for about another nine years and doesn’t permit the construction of any additional adjoined docks, fixed sewer-water infrastructure or reopening the dock for its original purpose.
“It’s my understanding from speaking with (Department of Natural Resources) and (Department of Environmental Quality) that we can always ask to reopen the agreement should a good idea come along,” Vajda said.
Carpenter said a more detailed structural analysis should be performed to assess how new development may impose additional weight loads on the dock structure and to determine the actual strength and interior condition of the structure’s concrete and steel reinforcement.
GEI also noted that any renovations would need to meet the latest building code requirements, and that routine inspection and maintenance schedules should be implemented to keep the dock from falling into disrepair.
“It’s a huge undertaking …” Commissioner Tom Baldini said. “The option of doing nothing is really not an option at some point, because sometime in the future we could have some other hazards …”
GEI’s report and a 15-minute video outlining the process has been posted on the city’s website at mqtcty.org/oredock.php.
Ryan Jarvi can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.