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Efforts continue to protect Porkies entrance road

A completed stretch of County Road 107 near Ontonagon shows armoring in the form of large boulders placed to protect the shoreline and road from the waves of Lake Superior. (Michigan Department of Natural Resources photo)

ONTONAGON – Work begun in August to protect the main east access road to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is continuing in the face of violent late fall storms off Lake Superior.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Ontonagon County Road Commission have teamed up to protect County Road 107 to ensure continued east access to the 60,000-acre park and its signature attractions.

The DNR is not typically involved in county road projects but is in this case because of the road’s importance to the park. About 80 percent of the 1.6-mile stretch of affected county road has less than 20 feet of shoreline between the lake’s edge and the road.

“Without this main accessway, should a road washout or undermining occur, visitors to the park’s east end may be required to take an 80-mile detour, via west end entry, or be prevented altogether from reaching numerous points of interest,” said Eric Cadeau, a DNR Parks and Recreation Division regional planner.

Some of those points of interest include the Lake of the Clouds overlook, Union Bay Campground and the park’s ski area.

“Access to the Lake of the Clouds and to the great resources of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is critical for visitors and area tourism,” said Ron Olson, DNR Parks and Recreation Division chief.

The DNR and road commission spent a combined total of $651,400 to place boulders and other protective measures between the county road and Lake Superior.

In places where the work was completed since August, the remedies have worked.

“The storms we had around Thanksgiving battered the shoreline with high waves, but the work we did to armor the shoreline was effective in protecting the roadway,” said John Pepin, DNR deputy public information officer. “In some other places nearby, unprotected areas, some erosion did occur to right up to the edge of the road.”

The road commission immediately marked those areas with barrels to alert motorists of the hazard, with crews adding materials to the roadside shoreline to mitigate the damage caused by Lake Superior’s waves.

“Currently, the DNR is mobilizing excavators and other equipment, and procuring large ballast rock to extend the armoring project beyond where we had finished last summer,” said Mike Knack, park supervisor. “The DNR will restart this project as soon as possible and continue to work until weather forces us to stop.”

County Road 107 will be closed west of South Boundary Road while work is underway.

Meanwhile, a road commission grant application seeking $12 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation to realign the road away from the shoreline was unsuccessful.

A search for a long-term solution to the problem continues.

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