Trail Creek barrier shields Lake Michigan from ‘disaster’

The Times of Northwest Indiana

April 20, 2012

MICHIGAN CITY | One invasive species that has plagued Lake Michigan for years is less likely to continue to spread locally.

Close to 50 people, including science students from the nearby Krueger Middle School, gathered in a frigid downpour at Trail Creek and Springland Avenue on Friday morning for the dedication of the sea lamprey barrier.

The Trail Creek barrier was constructed through a partnership between the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The barrier will work to reduce the sea lamprey population in two ways – by preventing them from moving to spawning areas thereby reducing the population over time and trapping them. The barrier allows favorable fish to swim through or jump over it and pass between the creek and the lake.

“Sea lamprey have been a disaster for Lake Michigan,” said Bill James, chief of fisheries for the IDNR and a member of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. “Sea lamprey really changed the way of life for Great Lakes fisheries.”

Sea lamprey are native to the Atlantic but arrived in the Great Lakes 76 years ago via seaways. The parasitic, eel-like fish attaches its round, sucker mouth rimmed with teeth to healthy fish and sucks the fluids from them.

One sea lamprey can destroy more than 40 pounds of Great Lakes fish during its lifetime.

Sea lamprey have no predators in the Great Lakes and nearly destroyed regional fisheries in the 1960s. Applications of lampricides and the construction of barriers in tributaries have helped slow their progression, James said, but there is more to be done.

James said Great Lakes fisheries are a $7 billion industry in the U.S. and Canada that are threatened by the sea lamprey.

Jake Van Effen, biological science technician for the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, presented James with the first wriggling lamprey caught in the trap to the shrieks of the middle school students gathered for the event.

Charlie Wooley, deputy regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said his agency will operate and maintain the barrier.

In the past 40 years, Trail Creek has been treated eight times with a lampricide to try to keep the sea lamprey from entering Lake Michigan. Wooley said each application cost $150,000.

“We won’t have to do that anymore and we’ll be able to use those resources elsewhere in the Great Lakes to help control the sea lamprey,” Wooley said.


Lane widening finished at the south end of the International Bridge


September 02, 2011


SAULT STE. MARIE, MI – Customs and Border Protection is joining with the International Bridge Administration and GSA to announce that work to widen the pavement between the south end of the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge and the CBP primary inspection booths has been completed.

“This project has already provided improved efficiency in the flow of traffic,” stated Devin Chamberlain, CBP Port director. “Commercial trucks are taking advantage of the additional space in the lower queue, providing room for passenger vehicles on the upper plaza.”

The goal of this $1,087,695 (USD) project, federally funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, was to mitigate the “bottleneck” created when southbound trucks prevent southbound passenger vehicles from accessing the CBP inspection booths.

This has been accomplished by widening the pavement between the end of the bridge and the inspection booths, allowing more space for trucks awaiting inspection.

“This project will improve bridge customer safety and bridge traffic efficiency by getting trucks off the bridge and onto separate queuing lanes,” stated Phil Becker, the manager of the International Bridge Administration, the public agency responsible for the operation and maintenance of the bridge structure. “The truck ‘bottleneck’ was, by far, the biggest concern we heard from our customers.”

The contracting agency was the U.S. General Services Administration.

A “design-build” contracting process was used to expedite the project.

The lead contractor was Industrial Maintenance Services, Inc. from Wells, Michigan.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security responsible for  the management, control, and protection of our Nation’s borders at and between the official ports of entry.

CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.


Gladstone St. Vincent’s de Paul breaks ground on new expansion

The Daily Press

May 16, 2011


GLADSTONE – Increased demand for services have dictated an additional expansion of the current St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) facility in Gladstone. A groundbreaking ceremony for an addition to the facility was held last week.

SVDS has been serving Delta County for more than 45 years. According to SVDP officials, the addition will enhance the ability of the group to serve those in need in many ways. The 7,400 square feet of additional space will include a basement area and upper level.

Two client services rooms will be added to allow volunteers to interview and service clients in a more private and compassionate manner.

The food bank will be relocated from the basement to the first floor. The move will allow for more food to be stored with easier access. A loading dock will also be installed to assist in the food handling process.

Big ticket items will also be moved up from the basement. This will allow for more donations without increased labor and handling. The new big ticket area will be for displaying and selling larger household items like dressers, beds, tables and chairs. Moving these items will make them available to shoppers with physical limitations and help increase sales, SVDP officials said.

The donation of household items is a major source of income for the store.

In recent months the number of those in need has risen sharply and SVDP officials said they believe this trend will continue. Gladstone St. Vincent’s Building Capital Fund Drive started with a $500 donation from the Gladstone Lions. Sponsors of the annual Escanaba Downtown Ribfest also announced funds from Ribfest 2011, to be held June 3 from 3 to 6 p.m., will be donated to the fund drive. Area businesses, service clubs, churches and private citizens are being asked by the SVDP to find out more and assist however they can. Donations can be mailed to: P.O. Box 310 Gladstone, MI 49837 or dropped off at the St. Vincent de Paul store in Gladstone. Checks should be made out to: Gladstone St. Vincent de Paul Building Capital Fund Drive


Bridge project expected to reduce traffic congestion

The Soo Evening News

April 21, 2011


Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. — Work to widen the pavement between the south end of the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) inspection booths is expected to begin in April.

The goal of this $1,087,695 (USD) project (federally funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) is to reduce the occurrences of a traffic “bottleneck” when southbound trucks prevent southbound passenger vehicles from accessing the inspection booths. This will be accomplished by widening the pavement between the end of the bridge and the inspection booths, allowing more space for trucks awaiting inspection.

The project will start in late-April 2011 and be complete by mid-September 2011.

Disruption to bridge traffic will be minimized and all current inspection lanes will remain useable. Interference with bridge traffic due to this project is expected to be rare and short term. Removing this bottleneck in the flow of traffic is expected to reduce wait time and congestion, reduce engine idling exhaust emissions and promote traffic safety.

The contracting agency is the U.S. General Services Administration. A “design-build” contracting process is being used to expedite the project. The lead contractor is Industrial Maintenance Services, Inc. from Wells, Michigan.


ARRA Abandoned Mine Closing Project – Phase I

USFS Success Stories

July 07, 2010


Over 100 years after the last echo of the miners’ pick was heard and the last pack mule had climbed the steep rocky trails, the sound of human activity once again reverberated off the rock cliffs in the Norwich area of the Ottawa National Forest. This time, however, it was not the sounds of sinking new shafts, but rather those of closing the century-old mine shafts with iron grates. And the noise now heard was not that of mining corporations looking for a fortune in copper, but that of a Michigan construction company weathering the sluggish economy through a contract funded with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) money.

When the Ottawa National Forest acquired tens of thousands of acres of forests, water, and wildlife in the 1930′s, it also became the owner of dozens of old mine shafts and adits that remained as the miners had left them many decades earlier. All of these mine openings posed safety risks and too many were downright dangerous with depths of several hundred feet or more. In addition to the safety factor posed by these deep shafts, a recently detected disease was beginning to decimate bat populations throughout the eastern US, particularly in hibernating areas such as caves and mines.

Closing shafts that can be easily reach by vehicles can be costly enough, but when the shafts occur in steep, rocky, and remote country without roads, the cost can easily exceed available funds. The Forest was receiving modest funding through annual appropriations, but much more money was needed to make all of the abandoned mines safe. An unexpected source of funding in the form of ARRA proved to be the answer.

To take advantage of this funding meant promptly conducting a NEPA analysis, preparing contract specifications, arranging a pre-bid field review, and ultimately awarding a contract. Prep work was completed during the fall of 2009, and in November a pre-bid field trip was held. Scheduling a field trip in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in November is a gamble with weather, and the odds are seldom in favor of those doing the scheduling. Never-the-less the weather was accommodating and ten people representing seven contractors spent the day visiting the project site.

Industrial Maintenance Services, Inc. (IMS) from Escanaba, Michigan, was the successful bidder on the contract and they were excited to begin work. All the Forest needed now was someone to oversee the contract. Geologist Tim Buxton agreed to be the Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative (COTR), but because Tim resides in New Hampshire, he needed someone to provide the day-to-day oversight. Once more ARRA came to the rescue. Using the authority to hire retired annuitants granted by ARRA, the Forest was able to coax Robert Wagner out of retirement to serve as the on-the-ground inspector.

Work began with the moving of equipment and materials to the project site. It was well known that access to the site would be as great a challenge as fabricating the closures. The rugged, unroaded terrain required a combination of snowmobiles, ATVs, hand-carrying, and even a team of mules to move tons of iron and equipment to the mine shafts.

Delivering materials and equipment to the project site was only half the battle. The other half of the fight was to devise a safe way to construct an iron grate over the mine opening. This is where Steve Smith came in. Steve, a bat researcher, spelunker, and mine safety expert from the local area was hired by the contractor to secure a safe working area and to teach the contractor’s employees how to properly harness and work from a safety line.

The contractor started constructing the closures in the middle of May, and even though frequent rain caused delays, by early July, the Phase 1 contract was completed and nine mine openings had been successfully and safely closed. Phase 2 has subsequently been awarded and the closure of an additional 21 mine openings is scheduled to begin in late July.

The ARRA funds received by the Ottawa will not only provide work to two Michigan construction companies, but will also have the multiplier effect of supporting local businesses and communities. With these funds the Forest will be able to remediate the unsafe condition posed by the abandoned mines in a matter of months, and not the years it may have taken. For the Norwich area, closing these mines is the first step in developing an interpretive site planned to highlight the mining history of the area.


Story submitted by: Chuck Frank, Ottawa National Forest