SOUTH HAVEN — Since late fall of 2019 city officials here have nervously kept their eye on the Dyckman Avenue bridge’s hydraulic system, wondering if it will continue to function properly as water continues to rise on Lake Michigan and the Black River.
Now, with the end of the winter season, city officials can finally address the potential failure of the structure that allows motorists access to the city’s north side, and for boaters, access to Lake Michigan.
Council members on Monday made the decision to pay Grand Rapids-based Strain Electric $19,380 to raise two metal cabinets that house motors that operate the bridge’s hydraulic system. The cabinets are located underneath the bridge’s deck, close to the water. If the motors are damaged by the water, the bridge’s two spans will not be able to be lifted for boat traffic or lowered for vehicles.
Work on the bridge is expected to begin April 20.
“We’re proceeding with making improvements to the bridge to ensure that service will continue during the upcoming summer season,” City Manager Brian Dissette said.
City officials became quite concerned about the bridge following fall and winter storms in 2019 that caused significant flooding along the lakeshore and the Black River, where the bridge is situated.
One particular flooding incident occurred in late November.
“On this occasion we had a combination of high winds and rain and the river experienced a back-up or surge for a period of time. This surge caused the river to rise above the bottom of the HPU cabinet doors, City Engineer Mike Dopp said in a memo to the city council. “The cabinets are sealed and stayed water tight during this surge event, but staff would not advise relying on the seals for any prolonged period of time. Since this event occurred, staff has not witnessed the water rise this high again, but it may at some point during this next summer or fall.”