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River plan worries some anglers

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A plan to make changes to a popular fishing spot within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has some anglers concerned about safe access to Lake Michigan.

It's called the Platte River Mouth Restoration and Access Plan.

And, some fishermen are worried the plan could include no-longer dredging the river mouth.

The Platte River Restoration and Access Plan is the result of the park's general management plan which identified environmental concerns caused by dredging at the mouth of the Platte River.

"The focus of the project is to examine opportunities for restoration at Platte Point as well as alternatives to providing recreational boat access for fishermen at that location," explains Kevin Skerl, Chief of Natural Resources for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Fishermen say dredging the mouth is key to preserve safe access for boaters to get back to shore, especially in rough weather.

In the fall of 1967, several people drowned when a storm blew in off the lake, dozens of small fishing boats didn't make it back to shore in time.

"Same lake, same weather," says Edward McIntosh with the Benzie Fishery Coalition. "What's to say it won't happen again? So our position is: don't let it happen. Continue the dredging they have been doing for 34 straight years and arbitrarily stopping without public comment or meetings or notice."

The dredging happened each year until the sequestration in 2013 and the money just wasn't there.

The Park Service says there hasn't been any dredging since then because it hasn't been needed.

"This is not a financial matter," insists McIntosh. "This is environmental because they are concerned that when they dredge, they don't have anywhere to put the slops they dig up. They deposit them on the beach which is causing environmental damage. We agree with all that, except they have to do it until there's a better way."

"Our standpoint, as long as the park can provide a safe access for the fishermen and while doing that, also provide access to the current river mouth to people while they're doing another access point to another area, we're totally fine with that," says Kyle Orr, owner of Riverside Canoe Trips. "Whatever works for the bulk of the people."

"The answer is move the ramp, move the access," says McIntosh. "And they've agreed to study it, but I don't know how many years that will take."

"And there are things that you think are going to go one way and at the end of the process, they go a complete other direction," says Orr. "So will that happen in this case? I don't really know. I'd like to think they're going to try to have everybody's interest at heart when they do this."

THE PARK SERVICE SAYS THEY'LL CONSIDER A VARIETY OF THINGS: ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT, RECEREATIONAL, PUBLIC SAFETY.

"And all of those are weighed by the decision-makers dependent on what their perspective is on those various topics," says Skerl.

In the Platte River Mouth Plan, there are three options: continuing to dredge the mouth when needed, moving the boat launch so dredging wouldn't be necessary for boaters, and restoring the natural beach conditions and no longer dredging.

A report is expected to be released this fall identifying a preferred alternative.

A final decision could be made next spring on which option to adopt.

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