Lake Michigan's low water levels impact local marinas

12:33 AM, Jul 8, 2013   |    comments
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Courtesy National Geographic

PARK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WZZM) -- The threat of low water levels on Lake Michigan is impacting the summer boating season, despite help from heavy rain earlier this year.

Local marinas are facing additional costs to maintain the docks, and some boaters are afraid to travel long distances where they might get stuck.

A long adventure on Lake Michigan has become too big a gamble for boaters like Rubin Schmidt.

"We have the question whenever we head north, what ports can we get into?" says Schmidt.

Schmidt is staying close to home this year, after getting stuck last summer. 

"We actually hit bottom going into Pentwater because the dredging ship didn't show up until two weeks after we were there," says Schmidt.

At the Eldean Shipyard marina, some people are spending less time on the open water, and more in a private pool. 

"We're creating a resort-type atmosphere, where if you're not able to use the boat in the way that you anticipated, you still have a reason to come out to the marina," says Wade Eldean, president of Eldean Shipyard.

Eldean executives say water levels appear to be even lower than last year, despite the spring's heavy rains.

In fact, the marina spent an estimated $50,000 on dredging and other maintenance costs to prepare for this season.  Eldean says because of the low water levels some customers were even having trouble getting onto their boats, so the marina lowered the docks and built new stairs to help with the problem.

"It's affected a lot of people with physical disabilities, says Eldean.  "It made it even more difficult.  We're trying to get ahead of the game and making sure everyone can use their boats this year."

Schmidt would like to travel again if water levels improve.  He knows his dollars would also go a long way.

"Either you pay for the slip, you go out to restaurants, go have a drink -- so every port we don't go to is missing out on that income," says Schmidt.

Still, Eldean Shipyard says business has improved from last year.
The hope is to attract a new wave of customers, whether by the lake- or pool-side view.

Eldean Shipyard also says this week's Fourth of July holiday was a big success for the marina because they got more visitors than expected.

Company leaders hope that trend continues through the end of boating season in late October.

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