Ports & Terminals

Port Moving Quickly On Storm Damage

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has urgently invited assessors from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to visit Port Milwaukee to assess the extent of damage left by a line of storms on January 11.

Port Director Adam Schlicht told The Waterways Journal that the port now estimates its damage at $1.4 million—part of an estimated $30 million in total damage the storms caused across Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties. He said FEMA assessors could be on hand as early as February 4.

The FEMA assessments will allow the port to determine the precise extent of the damage, and what is covered by insurance and what is not. “The delta between those two, we will cover with various types of state and federal aid,” he said.

Year Of Growth

The storms hit a port that was coming off a year of growth and progress. According to a January 30 press release, cargo traveling through Port Milwaukee facilities increased significantly in 2019, led by growth in all major dry bulk categories. The port’s municipal docks’ total cargo volume was up 24 percent when compared to 2018. Increases included 10 percent more cement, 20 percent more limestone, and 56 percent more salt.

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The good news was tempered by a decrease in cargo handled at private facilities in the Milwaukee Harbor. Agricultural product volume, in particular, was affected by international trade dynamics, with fewer ships loading Wisconsin-grown grain for export to Europe.

Overall, the combined tonnage reported in 2019 from public and private facilities at Port Milwaukee was up 11 percent. The port’s total activity in 2019 exceeded its five-year and ten-year average tonnage performance.

“Port Milwaukee has been rediscovered as an essential transportation link for our city and for the region,” Schlicht said. “With increased multimodal traffic in 2019, we are adding more value for growers, suppliers, and manufacturers statewide as well as city taxpayers who benefit from Port Milwaukee’s commercial activity.”

Among the commodities contributing to the port’s strong cargo numbers were steel used in manufacturing and other general cargo arriving internationally through the St. Lawrence Seaway.