Algoma Sailing Club
St. Mary's River,  Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada

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Sault sailors get study money but none for dredging.

By Bob Mihell, Sault This Week
Tuesday, March 19, 2013 10:43:57

Algoma Sailing Club recently received Trillium funding to help address the negative effects of low water levels on Lake Superior that affect the club’s docking area.

“We got money to do survey work,” Brian Christie said, explaining that they hired Tulloch Engineering to do the work.

“Basically it is survey work at this point to determine if we have enough depth of overburden,” said Christie.

“With the water levels the way they are, particularly the way they were last fall, we may not be able to get the boats in the water.

“Given the amount of snow we’ve had this year, it may be better than last, but the trend is to lower water levels in the Great Lakes,” said Christie.

“The ice was thick enough for them [Tulloch Engineering] to go out in front of the docks and drill holes in the ice, to see how far down the bedrock was, and they surveyed that depth.

“They also surveyed the depth to the top of the material that is sitting on top of the bedrock: sand, gravel, and mud; we had to get a sense of what is there.

“The question is, is there enough stuff on top of the bedrock to remove it to get the depth we need? Where is it, and how much is there?” Christie said.

“We have the preliminary findings, and it looks quite good.

“The next question is, where do we get the money to dredge. That has yet to be determined.

“In 2000/2001, the Upper Great Lakes were in the same situation with the low water levels,” Christie said.

“Back then the federal government, through Fisheries and Oceans, came up with emergency dredging funds, which the club was able to access, to do some dredging to relieve the situation.

“We have not seen anything from the federal government at this point. The U.S. government, on the other hand, took the initiative and is dredging as we speak,” Christie said.

“At this time, the Canadian government hasn’t offered anything. There have been so many changes in federal laws in the last few years, it’s confusing to know who is responsible for what around the Great Lakes. We’re not sure who in government we would ask about it.”

Sault This Week contacted Sault MP Bryan Hayes, to ask about this issue on Friday. Hayes asked for time to do some research in Ottawa, and responded Monday morning.

“I don’t have answers regarding funding for dredging,” he said.

“I put out queries, but to my knowledge, there is no funding for dredging, but that isn’t necessarily the case.

“We have to look at this circumstance by circumstance; the question becomes, what exactly are they asking for? I am looking into it through either Fisheries and Oceans, or maybe the Ministry of Environment,” Hayes said.

“There is a lot of concern over water levels in the Great Lakes; we hear about it every day. We are waiting for a report by the International Joint Commission. Their report has either just been released or will be released very soon, and will have a number of recommendations on how to address lower water levels in the Great Lakes.

“That study could have a bearing as well. I am exploring possibilities and am waiting to review the report from the International Joint Commission,” Hayes said.

Algoma Sailing Club had difficulty in getting its boats out in the fall, and, in fact, could not get them all out.

“We’ve got the two main docks, and we have a gin pole, and that gin pole has a cable on it through which we raise and lower the masts, particularly for the big boats, that holds the masts up. It’s a mechanical advantage,” said Christie.

“You have to get the big boats with the keels on them to the gin pole so they can put the masts up, and in the fall, we want to take the masts down. In the fall, we didn’t have enough water to take three of the bigger boats out. We had to send them to Detour, Michigan, to get them out.

“That’s a day’s motor sail away. The boats are there now,” Christie said.

“The water levels fluctuated and we were watching them almost hourly until they closed the power gates on the river. That meant the water level would drop. When they open the gates, more water comes in from Superior so we could get a couple of boats in, and get the masts down.

“We managed to get all but one in on time, to get the mast down.

“We were within an inch of being on the bottom. We don’t want to go through that again in the spring, and lose a boating season,” Christie said, adding that the low water will impact more than just the club.

“We have the tall ships coming back this year, as part of the 1812 program. They go to Bondar. We hope there’s enough depth there.”


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