Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Construction at Memorial Union litters the lakeshore

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Two projects on the shore of Lake Mendota--reconstruction of the theater, and construction of Alumni Park--have not been properly inspected for erosion control.

Boldt Construction is the contractor

The University of Wisconsin is in violation of its erosion control permit for construction at the Memorial Union and Alumni Park on the waterfront.  Gary Brown of the UW is the permittee, and Danielle Hunt of DNR supervises the permit.

The biggest problem is the required silt curtain.  The problems are so obvious--that I wonder if anyone has been inspecting the site.

On November 28, I found four problems...

1. The required silt curtain is non-functional, apparently for some time.  Inspecting closeup by boat, I saw...

  • numerous large gaps in the floats,...



  • the curtain below the intact floats was ripped in multiple places, and... 



  • the Styrofoam floats were drifting away and fragmenting.  Fragments were found as far as James Madison Park.



2. The construction entrances are very dirty, and the street is not being swept. These surfaces drain directly to the lake.  Especially, at the corner of Langdon and Park Street, a large paved surface within the construction zone, sloping outward, is very dirty yet has no protection to prevent escape of sediment.   Substantial sediment has escaped, and is running N on Park Street from Langdon.

3. The north construction entrance on Park Street, and gravel ramp to the shore, is poorly protected.  Runoff flowing north on Park St will flow into this entrance. At the bottom of the steep ramp by the lake, there is a wide gap in the silt sock (right), and there are also gaps in other silt socks where they run over the base off the fence.  There is only a single row of silt socks--two are needed.

4. This area--where concrete trucks are arriving--appears to have no protection--not even the metal pilings.  What is there to prevent concrete washout from getting into the lake?

Lessons from this project
  • Reliance on a "silt curtain" is a mistake.  The porous curtain--even if properly maintained--doesn't go all the way to the bottom.  Once phosphorus escapes to the lake from this construction, the curtain won't stop it.  And as you can see, the curtain has deteriorated so much that it has become a source of litter.
  • The Alumni Association touts the environmental benefits of this project.  Would alumni still donate to this project, if they knew the project was harming the lake?
  • The environmental impact statement said there would be no harmful impacts from this project--but poor execution is proving that study wrong.
  • The new tower for the Edgewater Hotel will be built on a steep slope next to the lake (below).  Let's hope that project won't rely on a useless silt curtain and non-existent inspection.

More photos of construction at the Union.

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