Highland Glen boat ramp fix tops $3 million

Highland Glen's boat launch has been out of commission since 2019.

Heather Wright/The Independent

An engineer’s report says the Highland Glen Conservation Area boat ramp and shoreline needs $3.34 million in repairs over the next 10 years.

In 1990, a steel sheet pile wall with an armour stone breakwater was installed on the northeast side of the ramp which is heavily used by local boaters.
A steel sheet pile breakwater was connected to the existing groyne on the southwest side.

But in late 2019, the original groyne wall on the west side of the boat launch ramp was damaged due to wave action and is now missing. Water levels on Lake Huron have been high, contributing to erosion on both the east and west sides of the ramp protection structure. The erosion has exposed the steel sheet pile wall of the boat ramp and has eroded the banks further along the beach.

The banks have continued to erode, putting the parking lot in jeopardy.
The conservation authority closed the boat ramp in 2019, and received dozens of complaints.

Aecom Engineering has been trying to come up with a fix for some time. Greg Wilcox, the manager of conservation areas, says while much of the study has been complete, the company is still looking at parts of the boat ramp which could not be reached in last fall’s poor weather.

Aecom, in the report to the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority, says the boat ramp could be temporarily fixed for about $85,500.

That would include repairing the walkways on the dock, providing aluminum stairways for beach access and putting up rip rap – a temporary fix until the steel retaining wall is replaced. It would also require a floating breakwater structure to reduce the wave action inside the marina.

But the report also lays out what will be needed in the long term with $709,000 in repairs needed in the next three years, another $710,000 in the next five years and the $550,000 replacement of the ramp.

The engineering firm also suggests replacing the erosion control at a cost of $1.29 million.

Wilcox says the cost of bringing the boat launch up to standards is quite high – much higher than some of the shoreline control projects done regularly along the lake.

The only way the conservation authority generates cash at the site is through a $15 launch fee. Wilcox says that won’t even come close to covering the costs.

He expects that would mean the project – if it is approved by the conservation authority – would need some major government grants to go ahead.

Wilcox says the board likely won’t consider the full engineering report until September, well after the boating season is over.

He knows that won’t go over well with boaters who like to use the launch.

Wilcox says when it first closed, the conservation authority received calls from about 60 people asking what was going on. Now, he receives several calls a week asking when the launch will be open.

Wilcox acknowledges the costs of the repairs will be high, but says the authority also has to consider safety. Highland Glen is the only public boat launch between Grand Bend and Sarnia and boaters need the port in a storm.