MICHIGAN CITY | Record low levels on Lake Michigan have left waterfront communities in the region and throughout the Great Lakes scrambling to save their summer boating seasons.
In New Buffalo, for example, emergency dredging on a roughly 1,000-foot stretch of the Galien River is planned in the spring from the Whittaker Street bridge to the city's public boat launch.
Bob Stratton, owner of Service 1 Marine outside New Buffalo, says the water is shallow enough that he wonders if large boats will be able to make it into their slips without running aground.
''Everybody is having the same problem,'' Stratton said.
Trail Creek in Michigan City is especially shallow south and east of the Franklin Street bridge toward B & E Marine and the Blue Chip casino, an area with many boat slips and a heavily used municipal boat launch, said Gene Davis, a conservation officer with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
“The people who have slips up in there are going to have problems getting up and down that creek,” Davis said.
Because of warm, dry weather, Lake Michigan is 17 inches lower than it was this time last year and down by about six feet from the record high levels of the mid-1980s.
The city of New Buffalo has obtained more than $100,000 in casino revenues from the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians to help pay for the cost of an emergency dredge.
In Michigan City, the channel closer to the lake is in much better shape.
Dredging there occurred in spring 2012 because a lack of ice last winter allowed strong northerly winds to push sand from the lake's bottom into the mouth and somewhat into the creek.
So far, there has not been talk of doing another dredge, said Duane Parry, president of the city council.
Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer said he plans to speak with U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky this week about obtaining federal funds for dredging the creek, especially by Trail Creek Marina and the E Street bridge.
"Our hope is he can get us moved up the priority list," Meer said.