MARINETTE — The county board’s Infrastructure Committee last Wednesday authorized County Administrator John Lefebvre to work with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation on what would be needed to create a primitive boat launch at the county’s expense on DOT property adjacent to the U.S. 8 bridge over the Menominee River in the Town of Niagara.

The purpose of the landing would be to provide a safe place for rafters, and kayakers and canoeists, to enter or depart from the Menominee River while the U.S. 8 bridge is closed for about four months for upgrades and repairs, Lefebvre told the committee.

“I brought this up at the (May 28) county board meeting and put this on the agenda (for the committee meeting) because I wanted to make sure the committee is in favor of it before we proceeded too far,” Lefebvre explained. “What has transpired since the county board meeting is that they’re only looking for a primitive boat landing, a boat launch or boat collection site.

“They don’t actually need to back any kind of vehicle or trailer into the water. What they need is a spot to land the rafts and kayaks and canoes to pull them out of the water safely and then ultimately be able to get those kayaks and rafts up about a 14-to-16 foot slop to get them into a vehicle.”

He said he received notice from Highway Commissioner Eric Burmeister last week that the DOT would be open to leasing the county that property and would be open to “us proposing the type of changes we would need to accompany our purpose.”

“Is this committee open to investigating this and taking it to the next level which would be to try to come up with a design and cost associated with it and come to some type of agreement with the DOT?” Lefebvre asked. “Then we can bring this back to the committee (at the already scheduled June 20 special meeting) and say this is what it’s going to take, this is the cost it’s going to take and this is what we need to make this thing work.”

Supervisor Bill Stansfield asked if the boat landing was just primitive if it could be developed “pretty fast?”

“We will work as fast as we can over the course of the next week of so,” Lefebvre said. “If I can get things in a position that I can present it to you at the June 20 meeting, we will work very fast. If we could accomplish that it would great.”

Lefebvre said the advantage of just building a primitive boat landing is the county would not have to deal with the Department of Natural Resources. He said, however, over time the landing could be developed further.

“It (the proposed landing) is in the right of way of the DOT highway so anybody could use it,” he said. “There’s a parking lot nearby. There could be the possibility where it could be improved so it could become a boat landing. As long as we stay between the highway and the creek we’ll be on DOT property.”

Lefebvre said one of the problems with putting in a boat landing in that area along the shore is that there are very high banks.

Supervisor Al Sauld, who lives in the Niagara area, said he thought developing a primitive boat launch was a good idea.”

“I don’t know what it will cost,” Lefebvre said. “That will be up to Eric (Burmeister) in figuring out what it will take and how we’re going to dispose of the soil that needs to be removed.

Lefebvre said at the May 28 county board meeting that he had been notified by Tourism and Marketing Director Melissa Ebsch of the dilemma facing Whitewater Adventures, a company that provides whitewater rafting trips, because of the bridge closure.

He said rafting businesses depend on the bridge to gain access to where they either launch their rafts or remove them from the Menominee River.

He said he has previously talked to the office of State Rep. Jeff Mursau, R-Crivitz, to see if a partnership could be established with the state to develop the boat launch to “see if we could do some type of landing to make this a better for those who raft down the Menominee River.”

“It is my understanding that they place the rafts in the river in the Niagara area and then raft down that stretch,” said Lefebvre, who estimated the bridge closure could add 30 minutes to the trip because the rafters would have to travel to Michigan.

“They obviously would have to reduce the number of trips and rafting adventures they can offer,” he said. “So this (the possibility of primitive boat landing) is really important to them right now. I wish I would have heard of this sooner.

“Right now they are pulling out the (rafts) to a private property in Michigan and I’m not sure how long that will be open to them.”