The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Lake freighter Michipicoten unable to unload at EDC dock



Ontonagon — It has been nine years since a lake ship unloaded cargo on the Ontonagon dock. That hiatus was to have ended Sunday as the Lake freighter Michipicoten was scheduled to pull into the harbor and unload 16,500 tons of road construction materials.

Over the past nine years, the state of Michigan has spent money on studies to revitalize the harbor. Last fall, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took depth soundings in the harbor but have not yet returned this year. Lost Bowl Development — owner of the former paper mill property — and the Ontonagon County Economic Development Corporation had worked together for months to make the arrangements for the shipment.

Lost Bowl President Pat Tucker said the 698-foot-long, 70-foot-wide freighter arrived at 12:30 a.m. Sunday. “Lake Superior conditions were excellent,” Tucker said.

But after four attempts to enter the river to the EDC dock, the ship was unable to do so. Tucker explained that, as the ship entered the river it hit a row of just 17-foot draft and could not get over that area. “The ship needs 21 feet of draft and it appears all the rest of the river was fine except for that small area,” Tucker said.

He continued that he does not know if the row is a residual from dredging only one half of the river, the result of a bad storm or if the original soundings by the Army Corps was wrong.

The Michipicoten made the attempts until 3:30 Sunday morning.

Tucker said the shipper is still interested in bringing in items to the port.

“We were anticipating receiving two to four ships in the harbor this summer,” Tucker said.

Sue Preiss, president of the Ontonagon EDC, and Tucker said they were “very disappointed,” the ship couldn’t dock. The only revenue the EDC receives is from ships using the dock and since the last ship was in 2008, the corporation has operated on a shoe-string budget.

Preiss and Tucker commented that the state spent “a lot of money” over a period of several months hiring teams from units of education and government in the state and meeting with citizens on how to “revitalize the harbor.” Both indicated it will be up to the state to decide if these efforts were just a study or if they are serious enough to take the next step to enable the area to again receive shipments through the harbor.

It is expected the EDC will meet with the village and Lost Bowl to take the next step.


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