Historic Low H2O

Boyne City Commissioners OK’d a plan recently to apply for a marina dredge permit to keep up with a near-record drop in water levels.

By: Benjamin J. Gohs, News Editor
(231) 222-2119

Boyne City Commissioners OK’d a plan recently to apply for a marina dredge permit to keep up with a near-record drop in water levels.

According to the Lake Charlevoix Association, Lake Charlevoix’s water level was down seven inches last year and it could drop another foot in 2013, putting the lake on par with the lowest ever recorded levels in 1964.

“They (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or USACE) allow dredging up to 13-and-a-half-feet—that’s considered recreational boating dredging depths. We’re at that in some places,” said Boyne City Harbormaster Barb Brooks during the Boyne City Commission’s Tuesday Feb. 26 regular meeting. “The entire marina does not have to have those depths but you do need those depths in some places for some boats.”

She added, “The water is down a good 12 to 18 inches in some areas since those (measurements) were taken.”

Boyne City’s Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ)/USACE application to renovate its F. Grant Moore Municipal Marina by replacing docks was originally denied in 2009, and the city has been working since to reapply.

“It had been explained to us all along from staff at the DEQ … minor changes in the plans can be made under the same permit application as long as it does not increase in footprint or change the scope of the project,” stated Brooks in a Feb. 21 letter to Boyne City Manager Michael Cain. “It had been our intent to make minor revisions to the overall plan, submit those and hopefully walk away with a marina renovation and expansion permit.”

The city hired marina engineering group Abonmarche in November 2012 to help with the permit process for the proposed dock renovation project.

According to Brooks, due to the low water levels in Lake Charlevoix, the marina expansion plan now requires dredging, which was not included in the original permit application.

“Trying to push the revised plan through with the dredging would prove to be time consuming and may result in another denial,” Brooks stated. “Abonmarche has recommended, for the sake of moving forward with the current renovation of the fixed piers and shoppers dock, that we amend the contested case permit to include only the portion of work that needs to be done this season so we are not in jeopardy of losing our grant funds.”

She added, “We would then take a little more time to work through the overall marina expansion plan and submit that at a later date.”

According to Brooks, the dredging project should cost the city nothing.

The Michigan Waterways Commission has awarded Boyne City with a $105,000 grant to help pay for dredging.

While these types of grants generally require a 50 percent local match, this batch of moneys requires no such matching funds.

It should be noted that the funding—which is part of a $20.96 million emergency dredging package—is contingent upon passage in the Michigan legislature.

The costs of the dredging package is broken down thusly:

Federal areas of responsibility (USACE)—$5,550,000

State areas of responsibility—$749,700

Local areas of responsibility—$14,661,320

Total estimated dredging needs—$20,961,020

The funding for dredging projects comes after the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Division conducted a survey of the state’s 83 public Great Lakes harbors and marinas.

The DNR, Michigan State Waterways Commission, Department of Environmental Quality and the Office of the Great Lakes took those survey results and devised a plan to help municipalities deal with the lowered water levels.

The DNR’s survey found that, without dredging, some marinas would be forced to close.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, most of Michigan’s water levels are down significantly over last year.

Lake Superior is one inch higher than 12 months ago.

However, Lake Michigan-Huron is 12 inches lower.

Lake St. Clair is 15 inches lower, Lake Erie is 19 inches lower and Lake Ontario is 17 inches lower than last year’s levels.

“Lake Superior is forecasted to remain near its current level, while Lake Michigan-Huron is expected to increase one inch,” USACE states on its web site. “The water level of Lake St. Clair is forecasted to increase three inches and Lake Erie is projected to rise four inches over the next month. Lake Ontario is also forecasted to increase four inches from its current level over the next month.”

See more water level trends and history at www.lre.usace.army.mil/greatlakes.

Commissioners also voted to resubmit the application for the marina renovation project.

Plans include replacement of five existing fixed docks with four 50-foot by five-foot adjustable docks and one 24-foot by five-foot fixed dock.

The new docks are intended for nine-foot to 30-foot boat slips.

The existing floating shoppers dock is expected to be replaced with a 160-foot by 55-foot floating dock.