DULUTH – The Army Corps of Engineers will undertake an expensive study of Park Point's longtime beach erosion issues.

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson asked the federal agency last March to investigate whether its shipping channel navigation work could have caused erosion of the popular 7-mile sandbar, also known as Minnesota Point, which has also been ravaged by intense storms and rising lake levels.

The Army Corps and the city of Duluth announced last week congressional approval of a federally funded Section 111 study that will "investigate whether the federal structures in Duluth-Superior Harbor are causing damages to adjacent shoreline on Lake Superior," Nick Zager, Detroit District planning chief for the corps, said in a news release.

If and how much the structures are damaging the Park Point shoreline will be key findings, along with how much natural erosion contributes to the problem. It's expected to take up to two years to complete. Section 111 is a federal program that focuses on preventing and mitigating the impact navigation projects have on coastlines.

It would cost the city up to $1 million to do a similar study, said Jim Filby Williams, Duluth's director of parks, properties and libraries.

Without the science-based research and long-term solutions likely to come from it, he said, "the trajectory is for the north and south ends of Park Point to continue to erode indefinitely, to an extent that would eventually harm public and private property and diminish and destroy parts of the public beach."

The Army Corps last completed a Section 111 study on Park Point in 2001, when investigators found that federal navigation structures were partly responsible for the erosion.

The suggested fix would cost $13.3 million and would have placed 98,000 cubic yards of beach sand next to the Superior Entry breakwater every decade for 50 years. That plan was never implemented because of a lack of funding. Filby Williams said the corps assessed the 20-year-old study and found a more "rigorous look" with more modern tools was needed.

The Army Corps recently completed a beach nourishment project on Park Point that involved dredging 53,000 cubic yards of material from the Duluth-Superior Harbor's navigation channel and spreading it onto the beach from the Aerial Lift Bridge to the 12th Street parking lot.

The amount was less than originally planned because a similar project in 2020 inadvertently left decades-old metal can fragments on the beach. New protocols to filter out long-buried debris meant less material dredged. The beach-bolstering project also involved trash cleanup.

The city of Duluth will hold a public meeting Thursday to discuss the study and the dredging projects.

Jana Hollingsworth • 218-508-2450