2018-01-11 / Front Page

Ice builds, damages harbor

Cold weather returns
From Staff Reports
The Enterprise Enterprise

A rare coating of ice on the Leland (Carp) River west of the Leland Dam has damaged docks in Fishtown, none more so than a private dock on the south side of the river owned for generations by the Hall family.

“It’s kind of a mystery why there is so much ice on the river this year,” said Amanda Holmes, executive director of the nonprofit Fishtown Preservation Society.

“We’ve had some very cold temperatures recently, but it’s been even colder for longer periods in recent years with no ice forming at all,” she said.

A frigid start to winter, in fact, has begun an ice build-up on Lake Michigan that hasn’t been observed this early since 2014 — the year the famous ice caves formed off the shoreline of Leelanau County.

According to records kept by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Lake Michigan was considered nearly 30 percent frozen on Saturday before much of the ice broke up with strong winds.

Temperatures were forecast to warm into the 40s yesterday and today, but are expected to plunge back to highs in the teens for the weekend.

The January thaw allowed Road Commission crews to cut back snowbanks that were lining roadsides and cutting back visibility at intersections. More than 90 inches of snow has been recorded in Maple City — about 50 percent more than the normal this early in the season, according to figures kept by the National Weather Service.

Grand Traverse Baykeeper Heather Smith is making no predictions about whether West Grand Traverse Bay will freeze in 2018, although she has observed skim ice on some mornings. She works for the nonprofit Watershed Center, which is located across M-22 from the bay in Grelickville.

“It’s possible. Many of the years we did have the bay freeze it was the end of January or February or even March, so there is certainly time. It’s not likely to be covered this early in the season,” Smith said.

Over the last decade West Grand Traverse Bay has frozen over three times — 2015, 2014, and for a short time in March 2009.

Back in Fishtown, Holmes said she’s been in touch with the Hall family about their property, and discussions are underway to determine how to move forward with repairs.

“We have a wonderful relationship with the Halls,” she explained. “They need to cross Fishtown Preservation Society property to access their own property, and need to use their dock to access our fish tug, Joy."

Officially, all the docks in Fishtown are located on a federal waterway, so special permits are required whenever work is done on them. Fishtown Preservation Society has standing permits to work on the docks it owns on the north side of the river, but more regulatory hurdles will need to be overcome depending what kind of work will be required elsewhere on the waterway.

It’s no mystery that ice is causing damage to structures on the river in Leland. What’s unknown is why there is so much more ice on the river this winter compared to other winters when temperatures were colder for longer.

This week, a representative of Manitou Island Transit, which operates seasonal ferries from Leland Harbor to the Manitou Islands, was installing a bubbler on one of the docks just north of the river mouth to prevent any further damage there. Bubblers can help break up some of the ice and prevent additional ice formation.

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