Thursday, April 17, 2014


 A twofer -  Snowfall plus dredging, taken at 8:35 this morning.
According to the weatherman, we'll see some sunshine later today
as this patch of moisture heads to the northeast.
Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Following Monday's snowfall, which let up in the early afternoon, our temperatures turned colder on the northerly wind, dipping into and staying in the 20s for several days. But, we at least saw sunshine, to help brighten our mood.

Monday evening's moon was terrific, the so-called blood moon. (I had to take Mary Jo's word for this one, a spectacular eclipse seen around 3 a.m.).  I did manage to stay up Tuesday evening (9:30 p.m.) for the moonrise, the official full moon.  It couldn't be missed because its light reflected from the slick surface of the refrozen harbor, brightening up the landscape.

I thought of the second shift crew as they dredged, and how working that evening must have been quite pleasant, given the garbage they put up with in the prior 24 hours.  Made me think of that Van Morrison song, with a local variation: "We get it almost every night, And when that moon gets big and bright, It's supernatural delight, Everybody was dancing (digging) in the moonlight." Or, for you hipsters out there, "digging the moonlight."  (Make your own variations.  It will stick in your head through this day, guaranteed.)

Tuesday evening, moonrise over Snake Island.
Dredging production since the project really got rolling Sunday has been quite good, with only short lapses for movement of the rig, and a blown hydraulic line on the excavator.  Trucks have been pounding the pavement - not an exaggeration.

The roads over which the spoils are trucked have been taking a spring beating, laden with frost and moisture.  The roadbeds are not all that deep to begin with, and as on Lakeview, bedrock isn't far beneath the surface.  Gargantuan potholes have developed, and the Town has been working to fill them with gravel, about the only remedy at this point.

Two Door County Highway dump trucks came in on today's morning ferry, and I can see another in the Northport webcam in line for the ferry, in an attempt to stockpile material for maintaining the roads.  Motorists are advised to go slowly over these roads, warned sufficiently in advance by orange Caution signs.  The toll on island blacktop is always great this time of year, but we'll see even more as the ground is still oozing moisture.

This County Highway truck, wing plow still attached,
was one of two trucks bringing gravel to
the island this morning.  
Why must road gravel be imported to an island famous for stone?

According to Town Chairman Joel Gunnlaugsson, the recommended size of aggregate for road base is larger than that which the Town has on hand (and possibly less sand content).  It is presumed - although I didn't ask - that such costs will be reimbursed with road maintenance dollars identified for road resurfacing in the dredging project funding.

Currently, there is little to no ice in the ferry route.  The large field jammed against Plum Island acts as a stopper in the bottleneck for the time being.  Pieces of drift ice that were problems last week have been blown far enough down the lakeshore that digging has not been affected, even with a southerly flow of wind last night.  A wind shift to the west later today should help to keep the channel open.

Due to the presence of ice in the route, or the threat of it, the Arni J. Richter remains the only ferry operating these days because it can navigate in ice.  And because the ferry schedule of six trips are more or less back-to-back, with little breathing room between departures, special runs for flammables such as fuel must be made in the off-hours.  This was done last evening when two tankers, one for LP, one for gasoline, were transported to the island around 6:30 p.m.

Digging Wednesday evening, without the benefit of moonlight.
This spring's extended winter touches many and varied parts of the island's economy.   In "normal" years the transport of fishermen and boats and trailers,  and of seasonal homeowners who start opening up their cottages, helps jumpstart tourism revenues.   Lacking that influx this year, dredging operations provide a needed boost for many local businesses.

-  Dick Purinton  

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