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Michigan DNR to forego $2M construction project at Oman Creek in Gogebic County

Boating access site will remain open

IRONWOOD — The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has decided not to pursue a $2 million project to build an erosion control barrier, called a groin, near the department’s boating access site on Oman Creek.

Instead, the DNR will continue to maintain the boating access site through routine dredging operations, which have successfully kept the site operating over the past two years.

“The Michigan DNR Parks and Recreation Division will continue to maintain and operate the Oman Creek boating access site in Gogebic County,” said Ron Olson, DNR Parks and Recreation Division chief. “We have concluded that continuing annual dredging and repairing the site, if damaged by storm events, would be the most cost-effective approach at this location.”

In summer 2016, the boat launch was destroyed by waters from a historic flood that impacted parts of the western Upper Peninsula and northern Wisconsin.

The decision to forego the $2 million groin construction project — which was based on budget concerns, relative use of the site and the impacts of continued high Great Lakes water levels — was informed by a public meeting held in October 2019 where project challenges and development alternatives were discussed.

“The DNR had considered constructing a groin, which would have extended about 130 feet into Lake Superior from the shoreline,” said Eric Cadeau, a regional field planner with the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division. “The groin was proposed to be 12 feet wide at the crest and about 105 feet wide at its widest base point. The project also proposed shoreline reinforcement in places where wave energy reflected off the groin could have created erosion problems.”

The project was to be funded by the Michigan Waterways Fund, a restricted fund derived from marine fuel taxes and revenue from boating registration fees that funds construction, operation and maintenance of public recreational boating facilities.

There were several factors influencing the DNR’s decision to curtail its plans for the construction project.

Among these, the cost of the investment was disproportionate to the relatively low to moderate public use of the boating access site; high Great Lakes water levels creating wide-ranging infrastructure repair needs at DNR-managed boating facilities across Michigan; long-term maintenance and liability concerns should the groin be built and competing impacts from two recently improved, or soon to be improved, boating access sites at Saxon Harbor in nearby Wisconsin and at the Black River Harbor within the Ottawa National Forest.

In addition to these concerns, the coronavirus pandemic has severely impacted budgets across Michigan state government.

“The DNR will continue to collect use data at the Oman Creek boating access site for the next three to five years and spend a minimum of $40,000 each year on routine maintenance dredging,” said Doug Rich, DNR western Upper Peninsula parks supervisor. “The access site will remain open and operating. The department will also work with community members and stakeholders to identify alternative ways to improve the boating access site at Oman Creek.”

The primary goal of the groin project was to provide erosion control to protect the boating access site and neighboring shorelines, while enhancing boating access to Lake Superior. Secondary objectives included reduced operational obligations and costs of regular maintenance dredging and reduced environmental impacts.

To date, the DNR had spent $210,000 on analysis, design and permitting for the groin project.

— Michigan Department of Natural Resources

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