Unusual Circumstances, Historic Value Make Irvin Move Costly

Baihly Warfield
Updated: August 10, 2018 06:23 PM

Moving the William A. Irvin out of the Minnesota Slip is an unprecedented project, a City of Duluth representative said, which is what accounts for the higher price tag. 

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As WDIO reported Thursday, the cost has risen to $850,000, which is $250,000 higher than anticipated.  

"It is difficult to accurately estimate costs on exceptionally unusual projects," Director of Public Administration Jim Filby Williams said.

According to Filby Williams, the first bid to move the Irvin came in at $1.2 million, but it was re-bid for $656,000. Now, it's up to $850,000.

The DECC will pick up $300,000 of the $850,000, Filby Williams said. The city's plan is to use tourism tax dollars to make up the extra cost. 

"The Irvin is a tourist attraction, and it's part of the DECC, which also receives tourism tax dollars," At Large Councilor Zack Filipovich said. "So this is a very appropriate use for these dollars."

Because of the tight squeeze getting the Irvin through the pedestrian slip bridge, the move will require installing "semi-permanent" pilings as well as barges and other equipment outside of the bridge. They will basically form a continuation of the seawall.

"We have 15 inches of total clearance on either side of the vessel," Filby Williams said. "So keeping it absolutely straight all the way through is very important." 

Tugboats will also be involved in getting it out because the Irvin has no propulsion mechanism. Plus, the Irvin is on the National Register of Historic Places, so the city had to prove that its method of moving the ship would do the least amount of harm possible. 

"It also has a very large environmental impact, positive impact," Filipovich said. 

There are two projects going on near the Irvin. The seawalls are being reconstructed, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is preparing for a sediment contamination cleanup in the slip. The ship has to be moved for the latter.

According to an MPCA representative, the slip cleanup is scheduled to start around the first of October. Crews will level the contaminated sediment, cap it with clean sand and put more material on top to prevent erosion. 

In total, Filby Williams said it's an $11 million "integrated project" of which $10 million is coming from partners like the Environmental Protection Agency, the MPCA and the DECC.

There isn't an exact date for when the Irvin will move to Fraser. Filby Williams said it will happen between late August and mid-September on the day when the lake is most calm. He said they will probably do it in the early morning hours when the harbor is least busy. 

While it's at Fraser, the Irvin will also be worked on. Its hull and mooring system will be restored.

Filby Williams said the seawall reconstruction is nearly finished. It's about ready for the asphalt and sidewalks to be replaced. He expects Harbor Drive will reopen in early October.

The City Council will take up the issue of the extra expense at its regular meeting Monday evening.


Baihly Warfield

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