Updated: December 30, 2012 1:23AM
High waves were slamming Waukegan Harbor breakwaters on Tuesday — a reminder from Hurricane Sandy that the Third Coast can also be susceptible to remnants of a superstorm — and probably piling more sand in front of the harbor’s entry. Sand buildup has caused the channel to close at least twice in the last year and the pounding from this week’s wave action may hurry the next closure.
Wave action from windstorms shift sediment into the harbor’s mouth, causing the need for dredging. In the past, the Army Corps of Engineers would address maintenance of the channel, but under looming budget cutbacks, that task at smaller Great Lakes harbors is being diminished.
Waukegan officials are being proactive in approving, albeit by a split vote, $25,000 to study options for management of the harbor’s mouth. We agree with some aldermen that the Waukegan Port District, which has formal control of the harbor, needs to ante up some funds to defray the cost. Ironically, federal officials are cutting back on dredging maintenance at small-to-medium-size harbors at a time when a long-term infrastructure plan is needed for the nation’s aging water infrastructure.
Freight moving by water is slowed by constraints on capacity and aging infrastructure. Waukegan Harbor does play host to firms that use the Great Lakes for transporting products. Similar to Waukegan Harbor, many American ports were built for the last century’s economy. Nationally, the Society of Civil Engineers estimates there is nearly a $16 billion investment gap in meeting the needs of U.S. ports and inland waterways.
We’ve been derelict not only for our harbors, but also other infrastructure improvements needed to our highways and bridges across America, That needs to stop.
It’s time to reinvest, which is what Waukegan officials have in mind for their $25,000 study to find a long-term solution to harbor maintenance.