Ice dam’s dock damage: $82,000

An unusually strong river ice dam broke a school dock, requiring a costly replacement.

Boathouse manager Tom Perry helps putting the dock together Friday for the rowing team.

Anthony Kwan

Boathouse manager Tom Perry helps putting the dock together Friday for the rowing team.

James Nord

University of Minnesota Boathouse manager Tom Perry lightly guides a floating dock using the front of his pontoon.
âÄúJust a little love tap,âÄù he said, his boat sliding the dock into place.
On Friday afternoon a group of five âÄìâÄì including Perry âÄìâÄì finished installing the last piece of the jigsaw-like dock on the Mississippi River.
It marked the end of a five-month, $82,000 debacle that began around Thanksgiving.
University employee Victoria Bayerl was walking on the Mississippi River Flats near the Boathouse, which sits on the riverbank behind Coffman Union, when she noticed an ice jam was putting pressure on a massive pole that held the dock in place. Over time, the ice bent the pole, ripping the dock free.
She contacted Facilities Management and the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board. Eventually, the University dispatched a contractor to repair the broken pole.
BayerlâÄôs first instinct when she saw the wreckage was to question PerryâÄôs competence.
âÄúAt first I was like, that guy was down here every day, how could he let this happen?âÄù she said.
Perry, who is also an assistant program director for University rowing, said heâÄôs been leaving the dock in the water over winter since he came to the University in the âÄô70s. Typically, he said, the dock is strong enough to handle anything the river throws at it.
âÄúIt was really an anomaly that it happened,âÄù Perry said. âÄúItâÄôs amazing how strong [the ice] was âĦ it was like a glacier.âÄù
He called it âÄúa once-in-a-38-year occurrence.âÄù
The Office of Risk Management and Insurance helped handle the replacement dock and contracting work.
Risk Management Director Steve Pardoe said a University insurance policy covers the majority of property damage.
âÄúWeâÄôve got a big University so thereâÄôs no shortage of things to get damaged,âÄù he said.
A $10,000 deductible on the work came out of PerryâÄôs budget. It will eat up about half of his discretionary spending.
âÄúItâÄôs a huge chunk,âÄù he said.
In fiscal year 2010, the University received $689,534 in insurance payments for damaged property.
But that amount varies wildly year to year. Pardoe recalled vandalism at a building on the Duluth campus several years ago that cost $5 million to repair.
âÄúObviously, that was unusual,âÄù he said.
Despite BayerlâÄôs accusations of negligence, Risk Management typically accepts employeesâÄô account of the situation and only works toward a solution.
âÄúI had this sick feeling in my stomach,âÄù Perry said, recalling when he was first notified about the dock. âÄúI thought [to myself], âÄòWhat did you do wrong?âÄô I was sweating it for a while.âÄù
For a week and a half this winter, the contracting team braved the icy cold to replace the busted pole. They brought in a crane and even had to trim some of the surrounding trees. In total, it cost about $28,000.
âÄúOh, it was horrible,âÄù Perry said. âÄúIt was like zero degrees and they were out there working.âÄù
Throughout much of February, student workers âÄî often crew members âÄî assembled sections of the new dock, which were delivered by the pallet in a packed semi truck.
Installation began last Monday. Perry said a team of 20 students worked a total of about 90 hours to put in the new dock.
Crew practice hasnâÄôt been affected by the mishap because storms and flooding have kept the water unusable. Usually, the teams use the river for about half of February, Perry said, but this year they didnâÄôt get started until after spring break.
Segments of the old dock still float in the river and litter the shore as the new, $54,000 replacement bobs nearby.