For more than 130 years, navigation-and-rescue stations on two small islands guided ships through the Porte des Morts (“Death’s Door”) passage between Lake Michigan and Green Bay. Finally decommissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1991, these historic facilities came under U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) stewardship when it incorporated Plum and Pilot Islands into the Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge in 2007.
To provide public access and prepare for future restoration, USFWS hired Barr to inspect the structural integrity of abandoned access infrastructure, design repairs and improvements, and obtain permits. Field investigations revealed structural deterioration requiring repairs, plus opportunities to provide more reliable access. A pier, a breakwater, and a boathouse on Plum Island—built in 1939—contribute to the Plum Island Life-Saving and Light Station Historic District, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. We teamed with New History, a historic preservation consultant, to help USFWS meet the requirements of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (Section 106), ensuring that our recommendations would preserve the integrity of these historic structures.
Our design for Plum Island features repairs to weathered timber cribbing and decking, catwalk replacement, and installation of a new, adjustable ferry landing that accommodates varying water levels. For Pilot Island, we designed dock modifications for receiving heavy equipment during future lighthouse repairs. We will deliver completed and fully permitted construction plans to USFWS this fall. Designed to withstand Lake Michigan’s relentless forces, the rehabilitated facilities will provide safer, more resilient access, preserving their history for decades to come.
Interested in learning more about Barr's structural engineering services? Contact our team.
About the author
Whitney Hansen leads projects involving civil, structural, and water-resources engineering for flood-control, dams, and levees. Her work also includes condition assessments of existing or damaged facilities, field and dam-safety inspections, cost estimation, and preparation of plans and specifications. Whitney is a FERC-approved Independent Consultant.