Low Lake Michigan water levels look to be leaving the channel that acts as a lifeline between Washington Island and the rest of the Door Peninsula in need of help.
CEO of the Washington Island Ferry Line Dick Purinton says right now we are at what is typically the high point of the year in the lake’s water depth cycle. But readings in the dredged-channel show an average depth of about 14 feet. That could become a problem for icebreaker vessels that draw as deep as 11 feet in the winter months…
Purinton expects the water level to drop another ten inches to a foot by the end of 2012.
The Town of Washington was recently denied in its application for a Wisconsin D.O.T. Harbor Assistance Program Grant. But Purinton says members of the D.O.T., Senator Frank Lasee's office, the Army Corps of Engineers, and other government and economical agencies know something has to be done.
But that way of getting back and forth will be costly. Purinton says the end goal is to dredge the channel. That will cost in the neighborhood of $9.5 million.
Purinton thinks it will be a lasting investment though. The channel was first dredged in 1937, and hasn’t been dug since. He says back then vessels were smaller, and now that they’re larger and travel with more frequency, the channel needs to be dug accordingly.
Purinton also says he has noticed other effects of the low water levels. Many docks have been left “high and dry.” Those launching their boat from a ramp have to come exceedingly low with their trailers to get their craft in the water.
The lake’s levels have trended down for about 10 years now. The all time low was in 1964 and the all time high came in 1986. There is about a six foot fluctuation between those two numbers.