Monday, December 16, 2013


Arni J. Richter passing Roen dredge, 8:05 a.m., Dec. 16.  
Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Earlier than anticipated, deep cold temperatures halted the Detroit Harbor dredging project today, and it also marks the beginning of the Arni J. Richter as the ferry of choice for the next several months.

Single-digit temperatures around Wisconsin Sunday, plus ice in the Door passage, means we're not far from seeing the bay tighten up with ice.   Before Sunday noon, when bay ice from the western shore filled in the Door passage, the Eyrarbakki was used for most ferry runs.  We may reach 32 degrees by Christmas Day, but otherwise, its been consistently cold, and snowy.

When this photo was taken last week, several
nights' ice had formed in the channel.  It was later
cleared with a ferry stern wake and northerly wind.
Here, the Eyrarbakki is
pictured underway.    The Washington
and Robert Noble (hidden behind the Washington, to the right)
were drained and winterized prior to the previous,
deep cold snap.

Colder temperatures of teens and single-digits, coupled with strong westerly winds, hampered dredging operations during the past week.   The scow shown being loaded in the photo above was receiving the last of the dredged spoils for this season.  Roen crewmen will begin to lay up their equipment later today, mooring the construction and material barges near the island ferry terminal.  The tug Stephen M. Asher will moor at the south side of the Ferry Line property, where shore power can be obtained.

With ever-decreasing production this past week, and already down to one shift, it was a matter of time before the call was made by Roen and Foth to stand down.

When it was still possible to do so last week, the Roen crew dragged the channel to assure uniform depths, and to determine if any large, upturned stones were missed by the excavator operator.  Errant stones lying above project depth could be struck inadvertently by ferry propellers this winter when transiting the channel.   However, none were found.  In the accompanying photo are stones recently dug from the channel depths.   They will be added to the upland pile of stones previously separated from the more easily trucked spoils.

Blocks of stone three-by-four feet in dimension, like the one above, have been encountered all too frequently. 
Exactly when this project might resume is anyone's guess.  This will be determined in part by the WDNR's allowance for dredging after March 15th -  a date when, the claim is made, fish may begin to spawn.  When the heaviest ice disappears is another factor.   If ice remains well into April, and permit approval is not forthcoming from WDNR to continue in April and May, then the project may stall until late summer or fall.  This, in turn, will have impact in delaying repair of island roads.  Road repairs won't be made until the trucking ends.

An update on the dredging project progress will appear in the next issue of the Island Observer.

Note:   In the most recent Island Observer I carelessly wrote that Foth Construction Manager Ken Aukerman patrolled the trucking route and tossed spilled stones from the pavement into the grassy roadside.  That was incorrect.  Aukerman brings them to the dumping site where he hands them over to Tom Jordan, making the point that truckers should pick up after themselves, or be more careful. 

-  Dick Purinton

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