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Alcoway is stuck fast in the mud in low water off Wenonah Park.

Low Water Levels Slow Local Maritime Traffic; Other Ports Boom

Saginaw River Not On Seaway Map: Lacks Port Authority, Foreign Traffic

December 4, 2006       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Not only is the Port of Bay City-Saginaw suffering from low water, the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority doesn't even acknowledge this port exists.

We're not on the seaway map posted on the web by the seaway because of the lack of a port authority and the fact that no foreign ships are calling here.

One foreigner in six years has called at the Saginaw River, a Dutch ship with a cargo of Mexican sugar. "Wonderful!" say port watchers, "we make sugar here, why would we need Mexican sugar?"

MyBayCity.com has not yet received a satisfactory answer to that question. The only response from semi-official sources is that the Mexican sugar needed to be re-refined here, a claim that leaves some industry experts dubious.

Saginaw River watcher Todd Shorkey of the Great Lakes information network Boatnerd.com says recent traffic on the Saginaw River has been extremely slow with no vessels calling on the docks along her banks for a four day period in late November and early December.



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Meanwhile, reports from Buffalo, New York, and Toledo, Ohio, tell a vastly different story: business is up, way up.

The port of Bay City-Saginaw may be suffering from low water caused by silt filling in the shipping channel, lakes shipping observers said.

Recently the Alcoway was stuck in the mud for hours between the Liberty and Veterans bridges. She was finally freed by a tug from Saginaw.

Bill Hewitt, reporter for WSGW Radio, Saginaw, reported that the tug Olive L. Moore and barge Lewis J. Kuber ran aground recently in Essexville while backing out of the river after having trouble with low water in the Sixth Street turning basin in Saginaw. The tug-barge duo was freed by the Saginaw tug Gregory Busch.

Bill Webber, spokesman for the Saginaw River Alliance, a shipping group, noted in The Bay City Times that dredging is desperately needed up and down the river.

A Confined Disposal Site (CDS) being constructed near Zilwaukee is expected to allow dredging to continue next spring and eliminate the need to barge dredged material to the Channel Island CDF near the mouth of the river.

The new disposal site still needs to survive a legal challenge by environmental groups.

In November Saginaw River traffic was up by 8 vessels over last year, 35 this year compared to 27 in 2005, Mr. Shorkey reported on the Boatnerd.com website, widely viewed by lakes and shipping aficionados.

Saginaw River vessel passages are down, recording 293 thus far in 2006 compared to 323 in 2005. The decrease of 30 vessels calling here may be reflecting shippers' reluctance to risk the added cost that might be incurred if their ships became stuck like the Alcoway.

Mr. Shorkey and Boatnerd.com reported the tug Olive L Moore and barge Lewis J. Kuber are tied with the Manistee for most Saginaw River visits with 17 each so far in 2006. The CSL Tadoussac is next with 16.

Fleets calling on the Saginaw River are led by Lower Lakes/Grand River with 65 followed by American Steamship with 37 and Andrie Inc. at 27, Mr. Shorkey said.

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at carraroe@aol.com)

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