During a severe storm event in 2016, nearly ten inches of rain in a 12-hour period caused catastrophic flooding of Oronto and Parker Creeks, washing out Wisconsin County Highway A where it enters Saxon Harbor Park located on the Lake Superior shoreline in Iron County, WI. The floodwater flowed through the Saxon Harbor Campground and Marina, severely damaging the recreational facilities. Facilities for 26 campsites were destroyed during the event along with 91 seasonal boat slips, twelve transient boat slips and two boat launches. A significant amount of sediment was deposited in the marina, and flow from Oronto Creek was diverted into the marina after it had eroded the headwall separating the stream from the marina basin.
With funding assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Wisconsin Emergency Management, reconstruction of the roadway, harbor and campground was coordinated by several agencies and partners including the Iron County Forestry Department, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Our team, consisting of Foth, SmithGroup, and U.P. Engineers & Architects, redesigned Saxon Harbor Park and provided oversight for reconstruction.
The design includes the replacement of the former campground in a new location south of Oronto Creek along CTH A; rebuilding the marina in a similar configuration as preceded the storm event, with relocation of the northwest boat launch to a calmer wave environment; and restoring Oronto Creek to its former location, but with resiliency provisions for providing the low flow channel with an appropriate floodplain to reduce risks from future storm events.
Initial cleanup of large debris was completed by Forestry personnel, the National Guard, and Snow County Contracting. USACE completed the dredging of the federal portions of the harbor. Realignment of CTH A and the replacement of the bridge over Oronto Creek by WisDOT was completed in late 2018. The Foth team began restoration of Saxon Harbor Park in 2017 with debris removal from Oronto and Parker Creeks downstream from the WisDOT project limits, and restoration of the channel banks. Rebuilding the marina and the remaining harbor reconstruction was conducted from 2018-2020. The final phase includes relocating the harbor campground.
The design included features to provide greater resilience from future storms and high water events. Construction of the marina and camp¬ground facilities was expedited to restore tourism dollars and stability to the local economy, as well as to aid safe navigation on Lake Superior.