Two summers ago, the city shut down the eastern side of the Stacy Boulevard seawall near the Blynman Bridge for safety reasons.
Since then, that section of sidewalk has gotten worse for the wear, city officials say.
Now, the city is applying for more than $4 million in Seaport Advisory Council grant funding to fix it, with the promise that the city will cough up 25 percent of that for its share of what would amount to a $5.5 million project overall.
"One really big storm, and we could have a problem on our hands," said Sarah Garcia, who has shifted from her former post as community development director to harbor planning director under a City Hall restructuring initiated last month by Mayor Carolyn Kirk.
Garcia said the $5.5 million project would repair that section of the Boulevard and it would stabilize the seawall that runs from The Cut bridge to Stage Fort Park.
Fixing those walkways, Garcia added, helps connect the Visitors Center at Stage Fort to the city's downtown and the new Harborwalk, which is targeted to open next month.
The grant, however, would require the $1.1 million in matching funds from the city — and getting the Seaport Advisory Council funding isn't easy, Garcia and Public Works Director Mike Hale said Monday. Gloucester is one of many municipalities with seawalls in dire need of repair, they said.
The grant application heads to the City Council's Budget and Finance subcommittee next week, with the city required to commit the $1.1 million in matching funds with the application.
According to the city's application for the state's Seaport Improvement Grant, the project will reconstruct the two collapsing sections of seawall. If the state awards Gloucester the funds, the application estimates construction will start in the fall, and finish in May 2014.
The project includes 2,000 linear feet of stone repairs, and would include the addition of public restroom facilities on the Boulevard.
Gloucester started the current season of seawall repairs in 2004 when the western part of the wall by the Blynman Bridge fell into the canal. Public Works, said Hale, rebuilt the wall with a cement, rather than gravel backing, and re-set the old granite slabs.
In the summer of 2009, Hale said, the city and the Department of Transportation found that the other portion of the seawall on the eastern side of the canal had started washing out. The state's DOT pumped in filler to shore up several void spaces in the inside of the wall by the bridge house, but the fill didn't stop that section of Stacy Boulevard from listing toward the water.
That summer, the city blocked off that section of the Boulevard, with a fence and a few Keep Out signs. The pavement on that section started to pitch toward the water and drop.
"There was no safe way to repour panels," Hale said. "Some dropped quickly indicating further destabilization of soils behind the wall."
The Department of Public Works and an architect have put some five years of engineering work into seawall restoration, Hale said. But, without further funding, Hale said, there's not much the city can do to keep the Boulevard from deteriorating.
"It could sit like that for as long as it takes to fund it," Hale said. "And you don't know how long that's going to be."
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.