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FOX 11 Investigates City Deck concerns go back nearly a decade

FOX 11 Investigate City Deck concerns

GREEN BAY (WLUK) -- Before the City Deck was even built, some concerns were raised about how close it was the Fox River shipping channel.

“I think it's just a disaster waiting to happen,” alderman Guy Zima said in 2008.

FOX 11 highlighted some of the concerns in November of 2008, a full year before the City Deck opened.

“The port just wanted to make sure that whatever was constructed there was compatible with maritime commerce,” port director Dean Haen said at the time.

Haen had raised concerns about the possible impact of bow thrusters on the City Deck while it was being planned. Bow thrusters are used to help ships maneuver.

FOX 11 Investigates sat down with Haen to talk about what happened Sunday when the Kaye E. Barker cargo ship hit a dock as it tried to make its way through the Main Street bridge.

When asked if he was surprised about the incident Haen replied, “Well, we haven't had an incident since I've been here. So, we've got a great track record. Great Lakes water transportation is very safe. But I can tell you in Green Bay if we were to have an incident, we could pinpoint that it was going to be at this location.”

Haen says the location of the City Deck, coupled with the angle of the Main Street bridge make the area challenging for ships.

“I would speculate that they encountered some unique currents there which brought them closer to the east bank. Captain tried to straighten out the vessel and hit the bow thrusters which caused problems at City Deck,” Haen said.

Green Bay mayor Jim Schmitt says everyone was aware that the area is difficult to navigate. But he points out that there have not been any problems up until now.

“When we built the City Deck, as well as when the bridge was built, we understood that that's not a straight line. Then you get a ship that's over 700 feet. You have to know what you're doing to maneuver through there. But we've been doing it successfully for many years so I'm not sure why this happened,” Schmitt said.

“(The captain) had to use his bow thruster to bring the bow back in line with the channel,” said Thomas Wynne, vice-president and general counsel for The Interlake Steamship Company which owns the ship.

Wynne says while the area is challenging for large ships, it's not necessarily unique.

“It's certainly not uncommon for ships that deliver cargo around the Great Lakes to encounter curvy rivers and angled bridges,” Wynne said. “This is just one of those spots where it's close. It's an angled draw and that City Deck is fairly close to the edge of the channel."

While no one was injured, Haen says it's important for everyone to learn from this.

“It was bad but it could've been worse,” Haen said. “I think we should chalk it up to an opportunity to learn and hope we never have the occurrence happen again.”

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