L’Anse works toward infrastructure upgrades

L’ANSE – The L’Anse Village Council made two moves aimed at improving village infrastructure at its regular meeting Monday, passing a Memorandum of Agreement with the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community to share the cost of two new water pumps at the Dynamite Hill pump station and entering into an agreement with U.P. Engineers & Architects to move forward with the third phase of the village’s sewer upgrade project.

L’Anse Village Manager Robert LaFave said the new water pumps will cap off a few years worth of improvements to the village-owned water system in the Dynamite Hill area southeast of the village, primarily on Brewery Road and Vuk Road. Two summers ago, he said, the village put in new water lines in part of that area, and last summer KBIC used a federal grant to continue expanding the system.

With the new development, he said, the old pumps are struggling to provide enough pressure.

“This gives us the ability to provide for water pressure needs today and into the future,” LaFave said.

“That station has never had the right pumps in place since it was built,” he noted, adding the pumps and station were first installed in the 1950s, when they serviced far fewer residents.

The project is estimated to cost $140,000, and will be split 50/50 between KBIC and the village. The village share will come from its repair and replacement fund, while the KBIC’s portion will come from federal Indian Community Development Block Grant money left over from a previous project.

LaFave said it was important the council moved on the project quickly, as the KBIC’s grant had to be returned to the federal government soon if it wasn’t allocated.

U.P. Engineers & Architects has been authorized to begin taking bids for the project Wednesday, and to begin ordering the necessary equipment.

The sewer upgrade project, the third and final planned phase of a project that began in 2007, is planned to repair and replace outdated and damaged elements of a sewer system LaFave said was build in the ’20s and ’30s.

“The pipes are 80 or 90 years old,” LaFave said. “They’ve done their job well but they’re in need of help. This makes the system more environmentally friendly, and efficient as well.”

To demonstrate how crucial the work was, he pointed to the lift station in the L’Anse Waterfront Park and this spring’s heavy rains. With the amount of groundwater getting into the sewage system through broken pipes before previous repairs, that lift station would likely have been overwhelmed if it weren’t for work done in recent years, he said.

“We would have lost that lift station and would have had an event with (sewage) flows straight into Lake Superior,” he said.

He said the village hoped to take advantage of more than $1.4 million in United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development money that has tentatively been offered to the village. Over $1.1 million of that money would be in the form of a grant, with the remainder in low-interest loans.

U.P. Engineers & Architects Project Manager James Koskiniemi said if the money was awarded, UPEA would design the project and get permits this summer, with work scheduled to begin in spring of 2015.