DEQ Will Hold Public Hearing This Spring On Ship 'N Shore's Dockage Issue
For 16 years a local entrepreneur operated his lakefront motel without any changes to how the business operated boat dockage along the seawall.
But all that changed one day late last summer when the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department came knocking in his door to inform him he was operating illegally.
Much to his surprise and dismay, Randy King found out his business Ship ’N Shore Motel & Boatel, at 528 Water St., was violating state of Michigan regulation by docking and mooring multiple row of boats along the waterfront, two or three rows fasten together. If the business wants to do that, it first most get DEQ approval for a special permit.
“We really haven’t done anything different,” said King about the 16 years prior to last summer. Locals say the practice has gone on even before King’s ownership.
What change was not the nature of his business and how he ran it, but a visitor that has been coming to town the last two years and is planning on coming again this summer: the 256-foot long Yorktown cruise ship.
Based in New York City, the ship has a capacity of 139 passengers and comes throughout the summer, docking in front of Wicks Park.
“The captain seemed queasy about coming in,” said King about the then captain of the Yorktown who deemed the motel’s mooring practice unsafe and problematic for the vessel’s ingress and egress.
An anonymous source told the Observer Newspapers that the rafting and mooring was not really a problem as much as it was an exaggerated alarm put forth by last year’s Yorktown pilot who the cruise company Conlin Travel fired and replaced with a different person.
In either case, the issue was brought to the attention of DEQ last July from a Department of Natural Resources conservation officer, at which point the state agency gave King 30 days to come into compliance, meaning limiting dockage to one row of boats, parallel to the existing 349.5 shoreline, DEQ water resources division representative Derek Haroldson recently informed The Observer Newspapers.
The DEQ deems the business a marina under state law and therefore is affected by regulation, specifically Section 30101(j) of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act.
“Ship ‘N Shore wants to formally designate a portion of the Kalamazoo River for rafting and mooring based on correct practice,” said Haroldson, referring to the DEQ application that King has been compelled to file.
In the application, King is asking, among other special requests, to be allowed to extend 90 to 95 feet into the river, which is close to the halfway mark in that part of the river.
The DEQ is planning to hold a public hearing about the issue sometime in April.
“It’s too early to tell whether we will or won’t end up issuing a permit. We have to take into consideration public comment, the intent of the application and factor in part 301,” said Haroldson.
“Our review is going to come down to the impact on the public trust, on riparian rights, on navigation, and if there is any feasible and prudent alternatives.”
Neighbors have been notified, including those across the river, such as Holiday Hills Yacht Club Resort. Some of its residents are arguing Ship ’N Shore’s rafting causes waterway congestion and presents a safety hazard.