Village urges additional dredging to promote commercial shipping

Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette The Ontonagon lighthouse still guards the harbor, which is now impeded by stamp sands preventing commercial shipping.

ONTONAGON — After a ship was unable to access the harbor in June, the Village Council urged federal legislators and the United States Army Corps of Engineers to continue dredging.

At its Monday meeting, the council unanimously agreed to a resolution supporting and encouraging future harbor dredging as a key step in improving the Ontonagon economy by enabling commercial shipping.

The council noted that the harbor serves as the westernmost commercial port in Michigan and remains a key refuge for vessels in western Lake Superior.

Most notably for Upper Peninsula residents, commercial shipping from the port is a key element in improving and supporting industry. With plans for SynSel Biofuels to create a plant in Ontonagon and any future copper mining in the region relying on access to the port, clearing it with adequate dredging is necessary, the council indicated.

Without the harbor, rebuilding village industry and the local economy will be difficult.

“I think this is just essential for our continued growth,” said Trustee Tony Smydra.

A copy of the resolution was sent to the Ontonagon County Board and the Township Board with the hope they would offer a similar resolution.

The harbor was dredged previously but not sufficiently for large commercial ships to get into the channel. The issue came to light in early June when a 698-foot ship, the Michipicoten, was unable to unload its 16,500 tons of cargo, which was material for Michigan Department of Transportation road repair projects.

Prior to the attempt, the harbor had been without deliveries for years since the mill closed. The new SynSel Biofuel plant is proposing use of the former mill site.