Evanston officials will be bringing in extra large sandbags later this year to fight beach erosion and stem further damage to an area that has received a battering this year. Image from the City of Evanston

Evanston officials will be bringing in extra large sandbags later this year to fight beach erosion and stem further damage to an area that has received a battering this year.

At the Aug. 10 City Council meeting, aldermen approved a $746,400 contract with Robe Inc. of Chicago for the repairs.

The project was not budgeted in the current year budget and comes in the wake of recent severe storms, adding to the damage to the area.

Officials are looking at doing work at four sites — Greenwood Beach, Elliot Park, the Dempster Street launch and Garden Park, where the most urgent repair needs were identified earlier this spring, said Lara Biggs, the City’s Engineering and Capital Planning Bureau Chief, in a presentation.

At Greenwood Beach North and Elliot Park South, officials are looking at stabilizing the revetment wall, which separates the beach from the park, and putting in a shoreline-protection system.

The shoreline-protection system they plan to use is temporary in nature and consists of 4-feet tall by 5-feet wide sandbags “stacked very close together,” Ms. Biggs told aldermen.

“Due to time and budget constraints, this temporary solution is the only option available to the City at this time,” she said. “It is anticipated that this temporary solution will remain functional and protect these areas from further deterioration for roughly three to five years.”

Eventually, however, she said the system will require permanent revetment reconstruction, estimated to cost between $2 and $5 million at Greenwood Beach and $1 to $3 million at Elliot Park.

The City had applied for substantially more in shoreline protection and beach erosion funds from the federal government earlier in the year and had received word the request had been turned down shortly before their focus turned to responding to COVID-19.

Ms. Biggs said the work on the temporary shoreline project is scheduled to start in September and be completed sometime in November.

After Ms. Biggs’s presentation, Mayor Stephen Hagerty observed that the project entails “a lot money, at a time when revenues are down because of the pandemic.”

He asked Ms. Biggs what additional costs the City might incur if Council members postponed action.

Ms. Biggs said the City might risk additional erosion and damage occurring if that was the case.

“Right now,” she noted, “the lake level is about three inches above what it was this time last year. This is the calm part of the year. We would see it at its lowest this time of the year and late summer. The storms are generally less.”

Yet, “we had a lake front damage event a week ago — we are having one right now,” she said about the thunderstorm sweeping through the area the afternoon of the Aug. 10 meeting. “And so, as the lake levels are high and we have these intense storms, we will see additional damage.”

She estimated that about 60% of the work to take place is temporary, but that “It sort of mitigates us in the short term from additional (damage).”

Ald. Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, asked about the weight of the sandbags the City would be using.

“I don’t know the exact weight, but very heavy,” Ms. Biggs said. “A lot of the cost of the system is actually trucking in the sand that is needed to build the sandbags.”

On a positive note, she noted that the “sand is clean,” so once “we no longer need to use the sand bags the goal is you can just cut open the sandbags,” and make use the sand again.

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.