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Another Side to the Cross Village Boat Ramp Controversy

Dick Selvala - March 31st, 2005
This is in response to the recent guest commentary by a representative of the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council regarding the Cross Village Boat Ramp project (Express 3/17). In writing, I am mindful that this organization has enjoyed a good reputation for its advocacy role on environmental issues. Regrettably, this organization for at least a year has been making unfounded assertions about the environmental risk associated with this project. Armed with a Ph.D in environmental and related sciences, it is all too easy to engage in intellectual bullying of a publication’s readers when there is a predisposition for the audience to accept, without questioning, the kind of doomsday picture painted in this article which shows no sense of regard for the desirability or need to tell the whole story.

Here are examples of the “rest of the story.”
The project uses only 25% of the township park shoreline and includes placing 700 feet of shoreline and 4.9 acres of wetlands and dunal uplands comprising 60% of the total Township park area into a conservancy easement as a westerly buffer between the project site and the recent plover nesting area.

The proposal is a fraction of the 1994 project size which used the entire park and ended at the permit stage. Unlike the 1994 project, the current proposal contains no boat slips, no mooring structures, no pump out stations, or on site fuel. It also eliminates thousands of feet of break wall and is designed to minimize lakeward protrusion to minimize interruption of littoral drift. It only adds parking for 13 vehicles with trailers.
The only permanent (above the OHWM) wetlands involved are about 8% of the originally excavated log float required for the lumber mill on that site. It is now a natural looking wetland with man-made origins supplied with water routed through a culvert from artesian sources south of the park property, just as it was during its log float days. It is not a part of the original natural eco-system.
The consulting botanist for the project has identified and mapped the location of listed plants that would require relocating, and expects excellent success with transplanting.
The future success of the plover population of the area, based on recent experience, is dependent on control of natural predators. There has been no documented lack of nested egg and chick success due to shortage of foraging area in the Cross Village area. The much more expansive foraging area in the Wilderness Park shoreline region had the least success in the 1994 season because of natural predators.
According to the Corps of Engineers public notice, the westerly arm of the ramp structure will extend 100 feet less into the lake (when measured normal to the shoreline) than was quoted in the article. That normal measurement is the only one relevant aesthetically or functionally.
Since the water level would have to be three feet higher to reach the OHWM, the actual visible (water line) ramp structure projection from the shore will actually be as little as 68 feet at lower water levels. With near shore grades ranging from 2% to 3.5 % at the ramp structure location, the shoreline moves a long way inland at higher lake levels.
Due to the location and orientation of the ramp structure design relative to the westerly shoreline, there is no basis for concern that the project will have a negative longer term impact on the downwind beaches. This was one of the design objectives.
The property was acquired in the period of 1950 through 1968 with a deeded condition that the larger parcel, that is the site of the proposed launch, be used as a recreation port. The site is an abandoned and reclaimed industrial site from the logging and lumbering days. The heirs to the generous benefactor who sold the property to the Township at an affordable price retain the revert clause and decline to give it up. The Township believes the intent of generous conveyors of property should be respected. The property has been given safe haven from private development but has not been fully used as intended.

It is irresponsible and intellectually dishonest to characterize the Cross Village Boat Ramp project as a threat to the Great Lakes eco-system. Even the notorious Exxon oil spill in Alaska was not successful in destroying the eco system of that area as was predicted. To in good conscience even infer that a single boat ramp along the nearly 300,000 feet (55 miles) of shoreline between Harbor Springs and Mackinaw City would have a damaging impact on the Great Lakes eco-system is beyond being a forgivable exaggeration. Rather, it is a gross misrepresentation and an attempt to influence public policy with less than admirable work in making an honest and fair-minded assessment.
The reason these kind of baseless assertions are being made at this time is the concern that the proposal might just very well have enough credibility for being a thoughtful balance of recreation, safety and environmental considerations to earn the support of permitting agencies. When your track record shows you are fundamentally opposed to improved recreation boating access to Lake Michigan and when you do not respect the principle of using lakefront property consistent with a generous benefactor’s deeded intent, you will do or say anything to undermine the effort.
Those who support at least one decent boat ramp in the 55 mile stretch between Harbor Springs and Mackinaw City should advise the Army Corps of Engineers @ PO Box 1027, Detroit, MI 48231 and refer to file #90-056-078-2/MDEQfile#04-24-45.

Dick Selvala is a board appointed member of the recreation committee that led the Cross Village project proposal.
 
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