Douglas Officials Decide To Pass On "Free Puppy Approach" For Buoy System Work
In light of the problems that arose last year regarding the Kalamazoo Harbor’s navigational buoy system, Douglas officials announced Monday the city will not take the “free puppy approach” like neighbor City of Saugatuck.
Instead of having Tower Marine install the buoys in the spring and remove them in the fall, as the marina has done the last two years at no cost to the cities, Douglas will have its own employees perform the work for Douglas’ side of the harbor, reported Douglas City Manager Bill LeFevere.
Using a nautical chart approved by the U.S. Coast Guard, the buoys were first placed in the 2014 summer season as a way to keep boaters away from water hazards, particularly shallow areas where boats were at risk of getting grounded. Buoys run from Coral Gables within the City of Saugatuck all the way up to Schultz Park in the City of Douglas.
“The ‘free puppy’ approach didn’t work,” said Douglas City Manager Bill LeFevere about the numerous issues reported by some in the boating community during the last summer season—wrongly and confusedly place, too many buoys, etc.
“We talked about this before, about doing this on our own. There is a way we could do this more effectively and efficiently with our own employees,” said LeFevere on Monday.
“This comes as a surprise,” Kalamazoo Lake Harbor Authority Chair Ken Trester told The Local Observer in response to Douglas’ move. “I am little disappointed we don’t have a unified plan as I thought we did.”
When the buoy problems surfaced during last season, some Saugatuck city officials and members of the Kalamazoo Lake Harbor Authority Board—including Saugatuck City Manager Kirk Harrier and Kalamazoo Lake Harbor Authority Vice-Chair Patrick Burroughs—conceded that while there were certain issues, many reports of problems were exaggerated and in either case, any problems were not insurmountable.
Part of the issue, Trester explained last year, was, “We (the community) don’t have the resources to hire an engineer to replicate last year’s (U.S. Coast Guard’s approved) chart.”
Since then, Saugatuck officials and the authority have worked to iron out the issues, according to Trester.
“Kirk (Harrier) has asked the Coast Guard to recommend—and this is something that has also been reviewed and recommended by the Allegan County Marine Division— a new configuration for the nautical chart—something that simplifies the whole layout and minimizes the number of buoys while still being effective,” said Trester.
As far as Saugatuck is concerned, there is a proposed letter of understanding with Tower Marine on the table that would establish a formal plan to remove and install the buoys according to “written performance standards,” said Trester.
Any plans moving forward, Harrier recently reported, would also entail a “Letter of No Objection” from the Coast Guard.
“The intent would be to place the ‘private aids to navigation’ as shown on an approved plan each year in a location very close to what is shown on the plan, depending, of course, on how much the main channel changes each year due to water flow,” Harrier has previously noted.