Washington Island

Chicago District
Published Jan. 9, 2024
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Project Description and Background

Consists of two recreational harbors: Detroit Harbor and Jackson Harbor. The project depth of Detroit Harbor is 14 feet, and the project depth of Jackson Harbor is 12 feet. There are approximately 4,000 feet of maintained federal channel.

Maintenance dredging is required on an infrequent basis and is currently not required.

Current Status

These harbors are subsistence harbors. They provide all essential services to the town and are vital to emergency services and schools. This project serves as an important harbor of refuge and supports charter fishing and recreational navigation interests. The local community has established a significant infrastructure around the harbor facilities that generates income from harbor users and visitors to the area.

Authorization limitations for Detroit Harbor constrain any federal maintenance actions to mitigate risks to ferry traffic.  Any further channel excavation to address those issues must be performed by local interests.

Requires infrequent channel maintenance, although the current authorized channel depth at Detroit Harbor is inadequate for current use.  Current sediment backlog within the authorized federal channel for both harbors is 3k cubic yards.

Loss of available depth within the center halfwidth of the channel ranges from 2 to 4 ft depth at Jackson Harbor.  Channel depth extends to 3 ft below the presently authorized depth at Detroit Harbor.

The two harbors’ channels were last maintained by the federal government in 1939.  The sediment removed was placed in open water.

The Washington Island Ferry Line has periodically replaced its fleet with larger vessels to meet increasing commercial needs on the island. The largest ferries’ drafts exceed 12’ when loaded. This depth is unsafe during periods of low lake levels or during adverse weather conditions, compelling light loading and increasing operating expenses.

The local community and the State of Wisconsin deepened the federal navigation channel at Detroit Harbor to a depth of 17 feet under a USACE permit. 135k cubic yards was of sediment was removed during 2013-2014.

Project Authorization

Rivers and Harbors Acts of 1937