Cass River Levee improvement project nearing finsh line
The Cass River Levee Improvement Project began one year ago – following the successful conclusion of Frankenmuth Auto Fest 2019.
Work began at the north end of the dike wall along Gunzenhausen Street, with much if the initial work concentrated on that stretch to the Nickless-Hubinger Flour Mill.
With COVID-19 arriving in mid-March, work slowed a bit and progress shifted to the other end of the project, behind the Bavarian Inn Restaurant north to Honey B’s Eatery.
Currently, the most intensive work is near and under the three bridges – Holzbrücke, Pedestrian Bridge and Main Street Bridge.
Frankenmuth Downtown Development Authority Director Sheila Stamiris, with input from Frankenmuth Department of Public Works (DPW) Assistant Superintendent Kenton Scherzer shared their thoughts.
“While the levee project is moving ahead, it is slower than the city had hoped. The project is in the last 20-percent, with some of the most difficult parts yet to be completed,” Stamiris said.
Rohde Brothers Excavating of Saginaw was the low bidder for the nearly $9 million project and is the general contractor. Rohde feels the project will be substantially completed sometime in November.
“What is substantially completed? Likely all the big elements will be done: The new levee wall, the Riverwalk, the infrastructure for drainage and other inground projects that make the project work,” Stamiris stated.
Also, at least the first course of asphalt will be installed on Gunzenhausen Street. The area upstream of the Holzbrücke will be completed and the city’s modifications meeting Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) requirements for modified and/or new walls will be done.
“What won’t be done are the 𠆏inishes’ necessary to button up the project including landscape and those smaller projects that are more about look than function. Many of those kinds of projects can and will be completed in 2021 when the weather is good,” Stamiris added.
Over the next 6-8 weeks, the following smaller projects will be completed:
Installing street lights on Gunzenhausen Street;
Finishing the levee wall upstream of the Holzbrücke and restoring the landscape area behind the Bavarian Inn;
Finishing the levee wall and Riverwalk by the Mill and Edwin L. Zehnder Park and;
Adding stone, placed in the river, to the 𠇏oot” of the riverside of the levee at the 𠇌urve” by the Holzbrücke and Covered Bridge Leather Shop.
“The stone will help keep the levee from sliding into the river. Building the steps that connect the Riverwalk to the Main Street area by the Main Street Bridge and finishing the Riverwalk are also on the docket,” the director said.
A handrail has been ordered for sections of the Riverwalk under and between the bridges, and parts of the handrail will be installed this year. However, the city will likely not open the Riverwalk in its entirety until next spring.
“It is the city’s intent to remove the handrails during the winter’s icy months to prevent damage to them and the walk will be closed to pedestrian traffic. Maintenance will be paid for by the DDA,” Stamiris explained.
Currently, users can walk on part of the riverwalk upstream of the Holzbrücke, but there is only one way in and out – on the north end of Honey B’s and the White House Boutique. An opening to provide maintenance vehicles is located near the Chamber of Commerce, but the opening leads to a steep hill and is not suited for those with physical limitations or those pushing a stroller.
“Still, the riverwalk is wonderful – you probably know how excited I am about this – and when it’s completed, the North Bank Riverwalk will be a fabulous addition to the community,” Stamiris said. “The covered riverwalk is narrower than the rest of the walk because of the configuration of the bridge and curve in the river. Still, it’s a great place for a stroll.”
Plans for the levee project have been in the works since 2005, when the city was notified by FEMA that the levee no longer meets required standards to protect it. Essentially, the levee and wall are too low and soils that make up the large berm are unstable.
The original levee was built in the mid-1950s, to hold back the spring flood waters that took over Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth and the downtown.
The funds for this project are coming from bond sales, which are financed by the DDA (50 percent), the city (35 percent) and impacted property owners (15 percent). The DDA is also assisted from grants from the Frankenmuth Community Foundation ($60,000) and the Frankenmuth Noon Rotary Club ($45,000).