Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Two log trucks were loaded aboard the Washington
this morning.  Water conditions and air temperature were
ideal for mid-December.

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island, Wisconsin -

We've narrowed down our Christmas wish list to these:
 Completion of necessary dredging before freeze-up, and the addition of moisture for the lake.

Roen Salvage, a marine construction company based in Sturgeon Bay, is expected to be here Wednesday to begin dredging at the Potato Dock.  With a large bucket and what we think is relatively easy digging, a good part of that project could be completed by the close of Sunday.  All available island contractor trucks will be utilized to haul spoils from the Potato Dock.

One complication:  the currently mild and calm conditions are forecast to quickly change Wednesday evening.  By Thursday, six to eight inches of snow and gale force winds from the NE are slated to hit this area, with winds then backing to the NW and temperatures cooling down as the low pressure is replaced with a high pressure system.  Friday will still be windy, but of even more concern for ferry travel on lumpy seas will be temperatures that might not get above the low 20s, icing decks and making it difficult to haul dredging spoils.  Also, contractor Roen wants to ensure their tug and barge are back in Sturgeon Bay prior to icing in the ship canal.  We hope they can complete their work here before the New Year's.

Mike Kahr, who with his barge and excavator is presently working in Fish Creek, is scheduled to dig around the end of the Northport dock.  When the Northport's work is concluded, he'll push his barge to the Island and continue working here until cold weather stops his dredging operations.  Kahr's equipment will remain here over winter, and if there is a warm-up during the winter, more dredging may be accomplished during that time.  There is much work to be done.

Yesterday Roen's survey boat recorded bottom depths in Detroit Harbor in the areas we intend to dredge.  Several spots were found that are alarmingly high - and not just for the Arni J. Richter, but the other ferries as well.  The lake level was (-17") yesterday, meaning a supposed 12' 7" depth of water remaining in the dredged channel.  (This level could drop another six inches with gale winds from the north.)   High spots were also found in maneuvering areas adjacent to the channel and near the service pier.  These need to be removed to ensure safe navigation near our island docks, despite the fact we are dedicated to operating the Arni J. Richter from the Potato Dock this winter.

Heavy and long semi trucks - any large trucks for that matter - should be ferried now given the uncertainty of the needed dredging.  Waiting until January in hopes conditions will allow carriage of a semi could bring disappointment.

We encourage shippers by truck to transport by ferry now, while it is easier to do so, rather than wait. To provide incentive for trucks carried in the next several weeks, before ice requires use of the Potato Dock, the Ferry Line will suspend until January 3rd the published Winter Tariff rates.  (Winter Truck Rates were scheduled to take effect December 21st.)

  And what gifts do we offer?

A continuation of uninterrupted service, normally a given, this year becomes a difficult stocking to fill.

The Ferry Line Board of Directors in late November approved "no changes" to the ferry tariff for the coming 2013 year.

But in a manner of speaking, we are proceeding using the "lay-away plan." We'll keep ferries, people, vehicles and freight moving across the water as best we can, with optimism that island traffic levels will be strong during the coming year.  Dredging, always an expense and of no perceptible benefit to the average ferry customer, requires a commitment of current and future assets.

So, let's collectively lay our finger alongside our nose in hopes that Santa will be here on Christmas Eve, generous and good-humored with his gifts.

-  Dick Purinton

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