Clean Sheboygan River was worth the wait

THE AUTHOR JACK LONDON once wrote “If it is worth having, it is worth waiting for.”

That adage was lived out last week as officials marked the end of dredging and habitat restoration work on the Sheboygan River and harbor.

It was the end of a decades-long process that began with the designation of the river and harbor as a Superfund cleanup site back in 1986, the result of polychlorinated biphenyl and other contaminants discovered in sediment at the river bottom.

After long years of bickering, blaming, finger-pointing and endless studies, public and private sector agencies and companies joined together in the new millennium to finally do something about cleaning up the river and harbor.

The result was a massive dredging project to remove all the contaminated sediment, with the added benefit of deepening the river and harbor as well as restoring fish and wildlife habitats in the river.

Now, more than a decade and $100 million later, the refurbished river and harbor are ready to face a bright future.

As County Administrator Adam Payne reported to the Sheboygan County Board Tuesday night, “We’re already starting to see increasing articles on the impact of the project.”

That’s good news for everybody in the county, those who live and work along the river and everyone else as well.

A clean, deep river and harbor means increased tourism, enhanced business opportunities and growing property values – all of which have a positive impact on everyone in Sheboygan County.

It was a steep price tag to pay for bringing new vitality to the river and harbor, but in the end it is well worth it and will be returned many times over in economic impact, not to mention improved quality of life.

The bigger price tag, though, may be the lost revenue, the missed opportunities and the decreased property values that the long-standing Superfund status left on the river and the county for decades. Who knows how much the county and all its residents lost over those years waiting for the river to come back to life.

But now it has. As Chad Pelishek, director of planning and development for the city of Sheboygan, noted at the ceremony marking the end of the project last week, for too many years the river was someplace no one wanted to go fishing or swimming in, or enjoy in any other way.

That dredging project and related efforts should end that perception once and for all. As the word spreads, people will be fishing and swimming in, and otherwise enjoying, a pristine Sheboygan River again. It was well worth the wait.

At issue:
Dredging project complete
Bottom line:
Time to enjoy river again

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