Black River study ongoing

Courtesy Photo Workers on Thursday dredge the mouth of the Black River where it opens into Lake Huron in Alcona County.

ALCONA TOWNSHIP — Dan Gauthier, who lives near the Black River and serves on an advisory committee working to improve the waterway, said the Michigan Department of Natural Resources gave the committee a $30,000 partnership grant and Alcona Township matched that amount to fund an upcoming study that will look at the potential for dredging of the Black River and installation of a jetty at the mouth of the river.

For years, sand has built up at the mouth of the river where it lets into Lake Huron, making the waterway impassable for many boats. The advisory committee has worked with the DNR, Alcona Township, and others to look for a way to remedy the problem.

Gauthier told The News GEI Consultants of Michigan, a consulting group of engineers and scientists for infrastructural projects, is currently sending the results of a new study to the committee any day now and will reveal how much additional study will cost.

GEI previously conducted a study for the DNR in October 2022 to figure out the best long-term solution.

GEI found constructing jetties or a breakwall should aid the problem, but the firm said jetties would be “less costly and more likely to be permitted with the appropriate design and sediment transport studies.”

That 2022 study found jetties would cost $2 million.

According to an email from GEI provided to The News by Gauthier, the upcoming study will “gather sediment samples to get an idea of mass sediment transport.” The $50,000 to $75,000 study will include wind and water level data to estimate how sediment might move over time.

As the committee waits for studies and plans to be set in motion, Gauthier said the group is trying to find other funding for further phases, as the next step, according to the GEI email, would be to transport sediment and create a sufficient jetty design for permit applications, which could cost up to $250,000.

“Right now, we’re trying to find different funding sources and we recently reached out to (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration),” Gauthier said. “They seem interested, since Black River is a part of Lake Huron’s watershed and we have multiple shipwrecks out here.”

Since the early 2000s, sand has built up at the mouth of the Black River, a nearly 15-mile waterway in Alcona County that flows into Lake Huron. Fish can easily pass through, but watercraft such as canoes and larger boats cannot.

Many residents and officials offer different reasons for the stronger currents that create that sand buildup, but there is no clear answer for how it started.

About seven months ago, residents around the river grew tired of the issue and took matters into their own hands, forming the Black River Watershed Advisory Committee.

Since then, members of the group have talked with state representatives like state Rep. Cam Cavitt, R-Cheboygan, other politicians, and the DNR about ways to solve the issue.

Richard Hill, DNR Parks and Recreation Division Gaylord District supervisor, oversees developments on Black River. He said dredging costs can vary, but an average dredge costs the department $12,000.

On Thursday, workers went out to Black River to dredge the built-up sediment as jetty plans continue to develop.


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