2016-12-15 / Front Page

Marina, Ice on Bay Are Topics in City

By Erich T. Doerr


At right: This sinkhole at St. Ignace’s Chief Wawatam Dock, pictured here Saturday evening, December 10, is one of several that have exposed conduits in the dock. The sinkholes and other erosion issues at the dock were a topic of discussion at the St. Ignace Marina Committee’s Thursday, December 8, meeting. At right: This sinkhole at St. Ignace’s Chief Wawatam Dock, pictured here Saturday evening, December 10, is one of several that have exposed conduits in the dock. The sinkholes and other erosion issues at the dock were a topic of discussion at the St. Ignace Marina Committee’s Thursday, December 8, meeting. The possibility of the city regulating boat operations near its shore, the height of the seawalls surrounding the harbor, and the status of the Chief Wawatam dock area were the main topics of discussion at the St. Ignace Marina Committee’s Thursday night, December 8, meeting. Whether the city should limit certain ferry operations in the winter in its harbor to aid the formation of ice for the annual pond hockey tournaments in February was discussed, or if attempting to do so would be overstepping its boundaries.

St. Ignace could adopt an ordinance spelling out how the waters offshore are used, said city attorney Tom Evashevski. The regulations would be in place for anywhere along the shore in the city limits. If the city took this route, the policy could then be enforced by state, county, and local officials. State law requires no wake within 100 feet of a dock, but Mr. Evashevski said if the city had its own policy, it could extend that distance. The change would require a resolution from the city and some work with the Department of Natural Resources, including a public hearing.

The Chief Wawatam dock is the only area where wake is seen as a concern, with no complaints from other areas. Mike North, a captain with Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry, said he and the United States Coast Guard are also talking about the viability of a no-wake zone near the marina. Mr. North is advising Star Line crews to slow down when entering or exiting the company’s Railroad Dock that neighbors the marina, but said he is aware that not all have done so, so far.

Coast Guard Senior Chief Boatswain’s Mate Andrew Babione, the commanding officer at Station St. Ignace, cautioned the city to be careful, if adopting a water use ordinance, to avoid unintended consequences, as a prior experience of his saw a city in Florida unintentionally restrict the use of a jet-propelled rescue boat when it restricted all jet-drive vessels with a policy geared toward personal watercraft.

Marina Director Mike Singleton noted the height of the breakwalls around the marina could pose a problem for smaller vessels. The tall barriers make it hard for those in small boats to see over them when departing the marina, which could lead to problems if a smaller vessel is departing the marina at the same time a larger one were to come in, with wake from the larger vessel possibly rocking the smaller one. Mr. Singleton would like to see a plan made to address the concern.

Concern continues about the sinkholes at the Chief dock, which have begun exposing conduits buried in the dock. Downtown Development Authority Director Deb Evashevski said the sinkholes are now forming along a 150-foot area of the 300-foot dock. A proposed fix for the problem could involve adding more protective riprap to the sides of the dock, perhaps with five layers of it, using three types of stone. Mrs. Evashevski said the city is looking at its grant options to help pay for pre-engineering costs related to the project. Prior sinkholes at the dock were repaired by the city’s Department of Public Works putting ground cloth and dirt over them.

A dive team from the Michigan State Police recently inspected the dock. It is more than 100 years old and Mr. Singleton said for its age, overall it is not in bad shape.

Mr. Singleton said the marina is also working with the crew of the USCGC Biscayne Bay to arrange the repainting of the Chief Wawatam Lighthouse at the end of the dock. The Coast Guard icebreaking tug crew would be available to do the job in spring or early summer.

Committee members Clyde Hart and Luke Paquin suggested that if the lighthouse is repainted, it could wear a new design to make it more visible during daylight hours. One idea proposed would be replacing the current all-white look with a checkerboard pattern.

With both Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry and Star Line now operating winter ferry runs daily to Mackinac Island, there has been concern in St. Ignace that the constant ferry operations could hinder the development of the ice in Moran Bay needed for the pond hockey and youth pond hockey tournaments each February. Much of the discussion was focused toward Shepler’s because of its freight boat Sacre Bleu sailing from a dock at the north end of the harbor near where the tournament takes place. Star Line has no plans to use its north-end dock this winter. It is using its old state ferry Dock 1, which is south of the pond hockey area.

Mr. Evashevski said the city has the authority to restrict operations, if it desires. The concept is not universally supported. Committee member Paul Fullerton said every winter sees the ice blow in and out many times before the bay finally starts to freeze over, if it ever does, citing his experience watching the lakes from above as a pilot.

“I can’t believe they make one iota of difference,” Mr. Fullerton said of the boat runs.

The committee said that Shepler’s president Chris Shepler is willing to work with them on the issue.

Mr. Fullerton suggested the city should look at options for a verbal agreement with Mr. Shepler and see if the ice is really going to be an issue this year before it takes any sort of action.

Mr. Paquin said the goal would be to allow the early ice in the bay to remain undisturbed long enough for thicker ice to have a chance to set up, and he added that the only way the community will be able to host a successful tournament, weather permitting, is if everyone works together.

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