Marina work a bewilderment in many ways - Beside the Point


This marina project really is a neat thing. That's kinda simple for someone who likes to write with a cadence, but sometimes you just gotta boil it down.

I've been down there a couple times at the generous escort of Fort Madison Public Works Director Mark Bousselot. All the things this city has going on and the fact he has time to take me down to see what's going on is not lost on me as being very generous with taxpayer time.

But the story being told is also as important. This an earth-moving, water-displacing project that is bigger than most people get to see from the new three-lane Hwy. 61 overlook.

Showing up with a camera usually sends rougher construction crews and dirt movers heading for work, but occasionally you can snap a picture and get a comment.

This week when I went down, engineers with the crews on the project, including MIchael Mohrfeld and Rusty Andrews of Mohrfeld Electric, Solar. et. al., displaced the water where the new boat ramp at the marina is going.

Talk about cool. That ramp is going to be twice the size of the original ramp, which will be enviable for additional fishermen and maybe some more competitive things in the future. They literally pumped all the water out and built a barrier that held the marina water out while dredging is going on.

Then they shaped the earth for the additional ramp space, put in the rebar and poured the ramps. Before it set, they grooved it for better traction in and out of the muddy waters.

And that's just part of it. While all that's going on, there's huge haulers running to and from Great River Regional Waste Authority bringing in clay for the base of the jetty wall. That stuff's dumped at the marina's east end where end loaders move it, and push it, and shape into what will be a wall that will be neatly frosted with a recreational path protected with heavy riprap and out of the flood zone.

Think about the imagery of walking along that path in the spring, out to a turnaround that sticks out into the Mississippi River's Pool 19.

And as that continues, two dredger machines crawl their way around the marina inside the jetty wall pumping water and silt into two huge sediment pits. I've seen construction projects in megalopolises like New York City and Chicago and it's bewildering how advanced we are in technology. It WOWs me.

But this is something different. This is really using earth to create more earth. We're literally taking the sludge from the bottom of the Mississippi that moves into the marina and are using that sludge to take Riverview Park's east side out of the flood zone.

The silt is used, when allowed to separate from the water in the sediment pits, to create a new ground base for the park that is out of the 500-year flood zone. And we're hearing that could take place in less than one year.

Then crews scrape it even and use the materials scraped off the new base of the park and the berms that created the sediment pit, to, get this, raise the road down to the marina. So the Mississippi is providing the materials to raise the park out of its own flood zone.

Again, that's cool and we get to watch it take shape right in front of our eyes. Don't be afraid to ask questions about this project. It's expensive for sure, with about $1.5 million directly in city funds going to the work. But the city isn't in the game to make money. They create quality of life and, in this case, enhanced quality of life for residents.

They also provide opportunities for private enterprises within their jurisdiction to make money. There will be money made on this project in a public-private partnership, not to mention the added benefit of visitor spends on consumption in other places.

There are questions about transparency in the project and why the partnerships haven't been divulged, and we're about clear communication. But we don't see this any differently than a Lee County Economic Development Group project that isn't divulged because it could jeopardize the deal. Entities that can't keep disclosure under control are less likely to be dealt with. That sequestration of information happens all the time.

But here's the reality and base of those arguments from our perspective. Business works this way and anyone who wanted to be part of that partnership needed only find Mayor Matt Mohrfeld and let him know. It's not like he's been hard to find.

I'm a progressive moderate. Sometimes you have to tax and spend. It's what gets things done. Capitalism is part of our foundation and what makes us great. I also believe things are way out of balance right now and that theory behind capitalism has been bent to the advantage of the extremely wealthy. That's an argument I'll have with anyone at any time.

But great things are happening in our community and many groups inside and outside of the community are part of those improvements. We need to celebrate the wins and let private investment be just that. There's a reason it's called a public-private partnership.

And talk about great things happening, someone stepped up in a big way this week. My wife walked onto the porch and found a three-foot canvass with a sunflower and quote about planting a garden. Obviously it came unsigned without a gift tag.

Suffice it to say it was very much appreciated in a time that's still very somber and dark for my family. But every time someone does something from the heart, it opens our eyes to just a little bit more light.

But that's Beside the Point.

Chuck Vandenberg is editor and co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at

beside the point, Chuck Vandenberg, construction, editorial, investment, marina, opinion, Pen City Current, Sunday


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