Diver locates missing foundation of sunken pier

April 6, 2019

A police scuba diver searched the water Friday morning at the Loomis Street Boat Launch to locate boulders from the eroded foundation of the pier on the launch’s north side, which was reported collapsed Monday. The city sent engineers Wednesday to examine the damaged end of the pier, who reported that many of the 500- to 600-pound boulders that had made up the base of the pier were gone, causing the pier’s end concrete segment to sag by several inches. The diver, Detective J.B. Wells of the Ludington Police Department, was sent Friday to find the boulders and see if any stones were on the boat ramp posing a potential risk to boaters, said Ludington Department of Public Works Superintendent Joe Stickney. He said the boulders were found, and they aren’t near the ramp, so the boat launch is safe and open for public boating.

“Everything’s clear in the ramp area,” he said. “That was our main concern, to make sure the boaters won’t damage their boats.”

The 20 or more boulders were found on the northern side of the damaged pier, outside the boat launch, which is where the city suspected the stones to have gone, Stickney said.

“The whole pack slid to the north. All the boulders are laying to the north side of that pier. We just wanted to doublecheck,” he said. “Now that we know things are safe, it’ll be a matter of getting with the engineers and getting it repaired.”

The engineers sent to inspect the damage were surprised to see the foundation had eroded so dramatically and the boulders had moved, said Ludington City Manager Mitch Foster.

“One of the massive storms we had this winter must have washed them away,” he said.

The engineers will be looking at the original designs for the pier to try to figure out if there was any possible flaw that could have contributed to the boulders being swept away by the water, Foster said.

After the engineers have had more time to review the issue, then the city will likely try to contract with construction companies that are already working on projects in Ludington, so the pier can be fixed quickly and not use more tax dollars than necessary, Foster added.

“We’ll do our best to make it functional as soon as we can,” he said.

The pier was installed nine years ago. The city was aware in fall 2018 that some erosion of no immediate concern had started on the pier, and the erosion was planned to be addressed this spring after ice thawed, according to Foster.

The city was first informed the pier had collapsed on Monday morning, and shortly later the city placed a warning barrier on the pier.

The public has been asked to not go past the warning barrier on the pier until further notice, both to protect people’s safety and the structural integrity of the pier, Foster said.

“We want to be as cautious as possible,” he added.