Schoolcraft Township seeks federal help for stamp sands
SCHOOLCRAFT TOWNSHIP — Schoolcraft Township is looking for federal help with stamp sands that are threatening to choke off access to its marina.
The township has had a problem for years with the sands, which wash up from the shores of Gay, where the smokestack of the former Mohawk Mill is visible across the water.
The marina is used both by recreational boaters and commercial fishermen, said Schoolcraft Township Supervisor Joel Keranen.
The marina was dredged about two years ago through $77,000 in state emergency funds, Keranen said; however, the sands were moved upwind, and have blown back. The resulting pile has overtopped the breakwall and accumulated on the other side, narrowing the passage for boats.
“If you had a commercial fishing vessel, do you want to try to get out on the lake and go fishing right here?” Keranen said. “If you’re not practically touching these rails here, you’re not getting through. Give it a few more good storms, and stuff’s just going to keep coming.”
Houghton County, Torch Lake Township and Sherman Township have joined Schoolcraft in passing a resolution asking for help from the state and federal government.
“Our budget’s $150,000,” Keranen said. “To do it right will probably cost you $1 million. When the breakwall’s that high, and the sand above it’s 6 feet higher than that. It slowly just keeps filling up and filling up.”
Left unchecked, the stamp sands will progress down the beach toward the township’s campground area, while also hurting property values of houses along the shoreline, Keranen said.
Keranen said he had spoken with the Army Corps of Engineers, which he said told him the government did not have money to spend on the problem. Keranen said he would be contacting U.S. Rep.-elect Jack Bergman’s office to seek assistance.
“Ideally, all this should be brought back to where that smokestack is over there,” he said. “That’s probably never going to happen.”
Keranen floated some possible ideas, such as raising the height of the breakwall or using large rocks along the marina to form another protective wall protecting the beach.
A 2014 Michigan Department of Community Health assessment of the tailings pile in Gay found that the concentrations of metals were not high enough to cause harm to heavy equipment operators or recreational vehicle users. However, Keranen was skeptical of the findings.
There are few other launches available on the east shore of the lake in the Keweenaw, Keranen said.
“For a direct route right onto the big lake, it’s pretty critical,” he said. “But it’s going to come to a standstill if it doesn’t get addressed, and soon.”