2017-03-02 / Front Page

City Weighs Need For Wake Control

By Erich T. Doerr

The St. Ignace City Council met with Marina Director Mike Singleton Monday, February 20, as it held a public hearing discussing what may need to be done for the city to develop a watercraft control ordinance. The city also set the times for its March board of review sessions and renewed its ambulance contract with Cheboygan Life Support Systems.

The purpose of a watercraft control ordinance could focus on wake control in and around the St. Ignace marina for the purpose of controlling erosion at the Chief Wawatam dock. Limiting the chance of a collision as boats enter and exit the marina alongside local ferry operations is another goal. There hasn’t been a major collision at the marina entrance, although a past incident did see one boat nearly swamp another.

Mr. Singleton discussed the research that has been done at the dock where it is eroding. The marina work has been conducted in conjunction with the United States Coast Guard and the Department of Natural Resources. The Michigan State Police Dive Team has also filmed under he Chief dock. This work, and above-ground photographs of the sinkholes, will be included in a preliminary report on the wake produced by local vessels to be sent to the DNR for review. A team of engineers from Marquette has also examined the dock with the goal of developing possible solutions for the issue. The intent of a possible ordinance will not be to affect navigation, but to limit erosion of the dock, eliminating any chance it could fail down the road. The council will need a resolution and vote at a future meeting to approve sending the information to the DNR.

There will be another public hearing on the proposed ordinance later on in its development.

Councilman Paul Fullerton expressed some concerns with the decision to hold the first public hearing Monday, harkening back to the city Marina Committee’s decision in December not to promote a policy without input from the Mackinac Island ferry companies, something not yet done. He said he does not want to “over regulate” the ferry lines.

St. Ignace resident Tom Cronan said the city may want to slow down the ferries for additional reasons beyond erosion control, as he believes the fast-moving boats discourage paddlers and kayakers from using the bay. Planning Commission Chair Betsy Dayrell-Hart added the city is on a busy kayaking route, offering it a chance to increase recreation in that area. Kayaking and similar activities are among the fastest growing forms of recreation right now.

Mr. Fullerton responded that he believed blaming ferries for the lack of kayakers in the area is unfair, with cold water likely being a bigger issue. He conducts aerial counts of fishing boats for the DNR and said he rarely seeks kayakers at Sault Ste. Marie and the Les Cheneaux Islands, despite the lack of ferries.

The council was curious as to the details of Mackinac Island’s wake policy. Captain Mike North, representing Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry, attended the meeting and said ferry lines are responsible for any damages they cause in the Mackinac Island harbor. There is no speed limit, he said, but the ferries slow down when they reach the harbor entrance at the end of the breakwaters.

The city approved renewing its annual contract with Cheboygan Life Support Systems to continue operating the Straits Area Ambulance Service. Straits Area Ambulance manager Mark Wilk has also spoken with Brevort Township and Moran Township, and will soon meet with officials from St. Ignace Township and Hendricks Township. The contract will expire April 1, 2018.

Mr. Wilk said the ambulance service will acquire two new ventilators to help patients breath, replacing older machines. Tthe new ventilators are estimated to cost $22,489.60, and since there is no budget for their purchase, he is looking for grants.

Having the ventilators available is very important in lifesaving efforts, Mr. Wilk said.

The ambulance service operates from a station it rents from Mackinac County. It wants to add a housing area and will seek to expand the current facility or find another.

Mr. Fullerton noted Monday that several sites are available for the ambulance service station and possibly the St. Ignace Fire Department, if it opted to look at any other options for its new fire station other than the Michigan Department of Transportation property at the intersection of US-2 and Chambers Street. Mackinac Straits Health System CEO Rod Nelson has offered a property behind the hospital as one possibility, and Rob Fraser offered the city the site of his business, Maverick Construction, as another. Additional options include the site of the former North Bay Inn restaurant on the business loop or expanding the planned US-2 fire hall project.

The city plans to look into all the options, but Councilman and Assistant Fire Chief Steven Paquin said he is satisfied with the US-2 location because it is close to where many of the present firefighters live, allowing for quicker responses to the station when calls come in.

The city approved the scheduling of this year’s board of review meetings. Those wishing to file for appeals and assessments will be able to do so Thursday, March 16, from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday, March 17, from 9 a.m. to noon and then again from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at city hall in the council chamber. An organizational meeting for the board will take place Tuesday, March 7, at 9 a.m. in the lead-up to the public meetings. A second resolution approved by the council also allows residents to file their protests with the board in writing this year.

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