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Combatting water quality, unwanted plants at beaches

August 9, 2012
Steve Schulwitz - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

ALPENA - The Alpena Municipal Council has ordered its staff to look into available options or devise a plan that would root out unwanted vegetation along the shoreline at Mich-e-ke-wis Park and to help improve the water quality at Starlite Beach.

During Monday's council meeting, City Engineer Rich Sullenger explained changes to a regulation that prevented the city from removing weeds that had grown large on the Mich-e-ke-wis beach. If the council chose to, a plan was in place to remove the weeds and repair the sandy beach.

"Before, all we could do was go in and mow the vegetation down, but now the verbiage says we can remove the vegetation all together," Sullenger said. "We could go in remove the grass and weeds in what used to be the shorline beach area. The water level has lowered and nature has reclaimed the beach area where the water used to be."

Sullenger said the city doesn't have the proper equipment to remove the weeds from the marsh-like ground where they thrive. He said in order to do the project, a contractor would need to be hired, and at this point the money to do so is not budgeted for.

"We have a beach groomer and a tractor, but if we even tried to do it we would get stuck and end up doing more damage than we would do good," Sullenger said. "Right now we don't have the funding in place because nobody knew this law was coming down the pike when we were putting budgets together, and at an estimated cost of between $15,000 and $20,000 it is not something I can guarantee will even happen next year."

After Sullenger's report, Councilman Mike Nunneley complimented his effort and reiterated the importance of keeping the beaches and the water clean. He said there is still an issue at Starlite Beach where a dark sediment builds up in the shallows and near the shore. He made a motion to have staff look for a solution to the problem and package the two issues together for a future report. Sullenger said there have been studies done on the sediment in the past, but maybe there is a new treatment or technique available now.

"It builds up right where the wave action is taking place and is worse right after rough conditions. It is basically seaweed and fine woodchips from things that have made up the floor of Thunder Bay for many years," Sullenger said. "They are breaking down and getting washed up to the shoreline. We have tried things in the past, but none of them really worked, but maybe there is something new out there that we don't know about that might work. We'll have to see."

Sullenger said there is nothing dangerous about the material at Starlite Beach, but that it takes away from the beach visually. He said a few other ideas have been discussed, should a solution not be found to fixing the issue.

"We have even talked about making a foot bridge that people could walk over to get to the cleaner water," Sullenger said. "The sediment isn't hazardous, but some people would rather walk that few feet to where the water is cleaner."

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 358-5689.



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