Students design first accessible fishing pier

May 2, 2003

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Left to right: Mike Dombeck, Jeff Spaeth, Jason Chopp & Todd Knox

PLATTEVILLE - The Mississippi Walleye Club of Dubuque, Iowa, will be working with one of UW-Platteville's senior design teams to devise two handicap accessible piers along the main channel of the Mississippi River and the backwater canal.

In order to follow the rules and regulations regarding the construction of handicap accessible piers, the team must work together with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the United States Army Corporation of Engineers (USACE) and city of Dubuque. Jerry Abing, representative for the Mississippi Walleye Club, has been extremely helpful to the team to ensure the design of the city of Dubuque's first-ever handicap assessable fishing piers.

The design team consists of four civil engineering students who will each be graduating this May. They are Todd Knox, a fourth-year senior from Cuba City with an emphasis in transportation and construction engineering; Mike Dombeck, a fifth-year senior from Wausau with an emphasis in construction engineering; Jason Chopp, a sixth-year senior from Hoyt Lakes, Minn., with an emphasis in construction and environmental engineering; and Jeff Spaeth, a fifth-year senior from West Bend with an emphasis in construction and environmental engineering.

The first pier that the team is responsible for designing will consist of a land extension located on the Mississippi River under the Hwy. 151 bridge between Iowa and Wisconsin. So far the team has researched and discussed different pier cost estimations and rough ideas for possible land extension solutions. The team will need to look into the quantity of earthwork needed to complete the project along with the amount of gravel and pavement needed to finish the land extension.

The second pier consists of a floating pier on Heron Pond, located on the backwater canal of the Mississippi River and behind the dog track. The team has conducted several feasibility studies to propose ideas for the best floating pier.

While working on completing each of these projects the team has encountered several challenges. While designing both the land extension and the floating pier, the team must take into consideration the variance of water depth. Throughout the course of a year, the height of the Mississippi River experiences a range equaling 13 feet along the shores of Dubuque. Each of the piers needs to remain usable for the majority of the fishing season regardless of the height of the river. This factor has also posed a challenge in regards to keeping each of the piers handicap accessible. The floating pier must rise and fall with the changing heights of the river without slanting up or down leaving the pier unusable by wheelchairs.

Despite the challenges involved with the project, the team has learned many valuable lessons and skills. The team members now have experience with the design criteria and hydraulics involved when working with a fast-moving river. They have also increased their communication skills by working with a client and several engineering companies that provided surveying information regarding the park where the piers will be located.

The team members feel their classes have prepared them with a strong background to complete the project. Classes with estimation have taught the team how to break down the project and acquire pricing data. Other classes have also informed them how to communicate, zone the area and layout the site. UWP professors, Philip Parker, Bob Schmitt and Lisa Riedle have also helped the team throughout the project.

Following graduation, each of the team members has future plans. Knox will be continuing his education by attending graduate school at the University of Iowa in Ames. Dombeck has accepted a construction position at Gremmer and Associates, Inc., in Stevens Point. Chopp is currently interviewing and seeking a position for employment. Spaeth will be working in construction engineering for Gremmer and Associates, Inc., in Fond du Lac.

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