Caseville Shanty Days Canceled for 2021

The Caseville Chamber of Commerce announced that the 2021 Caseville Shanty Days festival has been canceled. The event was to have occurred on February 12-13 in Caseville, Michigan.


The Caseville Chamber of Commerce announced that the 2021 Caseville Shanty Days festival has been canceled. The event was to have occurred on February 12-13 in Caseville, Michigan.

The Caseville Chamber made the announcement on their Facebook Page with stated.

At our scheduled meeting last night, The Caseville Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has made the unanimous decision to cancel this year’s Shanty Days festival. The current MDHHS guidelines do not allow for many of the events that we typically hold, and out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to end preparations. Additional considerations leading us to this decision include insurance, sponsorship, the safety of staff and volunteers, the safety of festival-goers, and input from local partners who have traditionally participated in the festival. We appreciate your continued support.

Statement by the Caseville Chamber of Commerce January 21st.

The event first started in 1992 as a snowmobile and motorcycle ice race south of Caseville on Mud Creek. The event was moved to town as a result of increasingly inconsistent ice and snow conditions.

Some of the highlights of past Shanty Day festivals can be seen here.

Caseville Shanty Days 2021 & News of the Upper Thumb

Renewed Calls for Marine Sanctuary in Lake Michigan

In 2015 Congress considered adding a second underwater marine sanctuary in the Great Lakes.

There are renewed calls to confirm the new marine sanctuary in Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan waters.


In 2015 Congress considered adding a second underwater marine sanctuary in the Great Lakes. The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, NOAA,  accepted, then tabled the Wisconsin-Lake Michigan National Marine Sanctuary. There are renewed calls to confirm the new marine sanctuary in Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan waters for scuba and recreational opportunities.

Map of proposed boundaries for Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary – Alternatives A and B – Courtesy NOAA

If approved by Congress, it would join Michigan’s Thunder Bay sanctuary in Lake Huron and be the 14th marine sanctuary in the United States. 

For Scuba Adventures in Lake Michigan

The proposed 962-square-mile sanctuary would be located along 80 miles of Wisconsin shoreline home to Port Washington, Sheboygan, Manitowoc, and Two Rivers. The boundary extends 9 to 14 miles into the lake. It will contain 39 known shipwrecks found in water depths ranging from 10 to 460 feet—15 of these wreaks listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Most recreational scuba divers will be able to visit wreaks from 100 feet and shallower.

Archival analysis hints that from 60 – 120 additional shipwrecks are yet to be found in the sanctuary area

Outstanding Historical Lake Michigan Shipwrecks to Dive

Walter B Allen sunk in 1880 – Credit: Tamara Thomsen, Wisconsin Historical Society

Fourteen of the known shipwrecks are intact, and the level of hull integrity of these sites far surpasses that of other regions in Wisconsin. Three ships still have the masts standing masts – an uncommonness in the Great Lakes. Four vessels, the Tennie and Laura, the Walter B. Allen, the Gallinipper, and the Silver Lake, all possess standing masts a rarity in the Great Lakes.

A photomosaic of the schooner Walter B. Allen.
Credit: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Sea Grant, Wisconsin Historical Society

A highlight of the sanctuary is the Walter B. Allen. This ship is one of the most intact schooners on the bottom of the Great Lakes. Because it sank slowly in a snowstorm in April 1888, the two masts are still standing and rise to within 90 feet of the surface. The ship rests at 165 feet. The Walter B. Allen’s capstan was recovered and now can be seen in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

An exciting recreational opportunity, a diver swims over the two-masted schooner, Walter B. Allen, sunk in 1880.
Credit: Tamara Thomsen, Wisconsin Historical Society

Lake Michigan is the second largest of the Great Lakes with a surface area of 22,300 square miles, making it the largest freshwater lake entirely in the United States and the 5th largest lake in the world.

Next Steps for the Lake Michigan Sanctuary

Gallinipper is Wisconsin’s oldest shipwrecks discovered to date. Credit: Wisconsin Historical Society

NOAA has currently tabled the application after taking public comments. Many people supported the proposed sanctuary during the public comment period, citing the tourism, economic, education, and shipwreck protection benefits.

In 2019, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers announced his support and petition to the NOAA to renew the Wisconsin-Lake Michigan National Marine Sanctuary proposal. The renewed proposal adds northern Kewaunee County shoreline to Manitowoc, Sheboygan, and Ozaukee counties. With the addition, the sanctuary’s area would increase to 1,260 square miles and adds 4 additional known shipwrecks and 14 additional unexplored potential shipwrecks.

The marine sanctuary would bring new opportunities for research, resource protection, educational programming along with encouraging heritage tourism and Scuba recreation.

NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary System

Image Courtesy NOAA

The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries serves as the administrator for a chain of underwater parks containing more than 600,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters across the country, including Lake Huron to American Samoa. The network includes a system of 14 national marine sanctuaries and Papahānaumokuākea and Rose Atoll marine national monuments.

4 Michigan Legislators Demand DNR Restore Commercial Fishing Licenses

Four Michigan State legislators demand the restoration of commercial fishing licenses for 13 fisher operations left in Michigan.


In early January, we published an article that the Michigan DNR effectively shut down commercial fishing in 2021. The DNR refused to issue commercial fishing licenses for 2021. This was distressing. Besides being a loyal customer to the Bay Port Fish Company, we are also big fans of the annual Bay Port Fish Sandwich Festival. Both of these valued institutions would be threatened if fishing wasn’t allowed.

Sometimes writing a letter to your state senator gets things moving

On January 7th, I sent an email to state senator Dan Lauwers calling attention to an issue affecting an essential industry in Michigan; Commercial Fishing. I learned that recent rules instituted by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources had, in effect, have shut down the state’s commercial fishing industry for the remaining 13 fishing operations in 2021. Since there was no renewed legislation on commercial fishing, the DNR took the position that licenses would be withheld this year. I’m still scratching my head, wondering the logic behind such a position.

I noted that besides bankrupting these businesses, including the Bay Port Fish Company, that this lack of effort by the DNR will affect restaurants and tourism in our state as we recover from the covid pandemic.

I was extremely pleased with his reply.

Yesterday, Senators Dan Lauwers, Kevin Daley, Curt VanderWall, and Representative Phil Green sent an inquiry to the MDNR director Daniel Eichinger asking that commercial fishing licenses be reinstated until legislation can be introduced, passed by both the House and the Senate, and signed by the Governor. The senators demanded that the Department needed to maintain the 2020 status quo of all commercial fishing licenses and permits. A copy of the legislative letter can be had on this link. The full contents of the senators’ letter to director Eichinger are below.

Letter to Daniel Eichinger, Director January 19, 2021 Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Dear Director Eichinger,

As you are aware, the Michigan Fish Producers Association filed a complaint against the Department of Natural Resources alleging improprieties associated with the Department’s actions and reactions associated with House Bills 4567, 4568 and 4569 that were passed by the House then, taken up, considered but not passed by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources during the last legislative session.

The heart of the matter seems to be the Department openly communicated to the state licensed commercial fisherman that unless the “House Versions” of the bills were passed and signed into law, either their licenses would not be granted in 2021 or dramatically changed to limit their ability to fish as they have in the past.

We will let the Michigan Court of Claims decide whether your Department has violated these citizens’ constitutional right to free speech. However, we are very concerned about a governmental agency using these tactics during the legislative process to achieve the agency’s legislative goals.
Apparently, the MDNR was satisfied with the House versions of the bills. However, when Senate Natural Resources Committee Chairman McBroom worked on the legislation, the Department on December 3rd opposed “all” amendments. Shortly thereafter, all state licensed commercial fisherman received a letter from the Department reiterating that “if these bills are not passed this year” — the Department would take dramatic action that either eliminates their fishing licenses, or drastically and negatively changes their ability to do business.

Withholding a person’s license or administratively restricting their business as a threat and/or inducement for supporting, or worse; retaliation for not supporting legislative objectives of the Administration, smacks of totalitarianism along with political and economic extortion. We are concerned this was the objective by the department in its communications to the commercial fishing industry.

The legislative process includes a combination of things including research, analysis, discussion, debate, compromise and decision making by those elected to do so in both the House and Senate. The opinion of a government agency is sometimes also one of these factors. However, in this case it appears the MDNR mistakenly believed that its opinion should have been the Senate’s only deciding factor.

There is no doubt that the commercial fishing law and rules are in great need of updating. However, the need to do so is not the fault of Michigan’s commercial fishing industry. Until legislation can be introduced, passed by both the House and the Senate, and signed by the Governor, the Department needs to maintain the 2020 status quo of all commercial fishing licenses and permits.


Dan Lauwers, State Senator, 25th District

Kevin Daley, State Senator, 31st District

Curt VanderWall, State Senator, 35th District

Phil Green, State Representative, 84th District

Next Steps for Michigan Commercial Fishing Critical

We will monitor the reaction of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Hopefully, Director Eichinger will order the renewal of the licenses soon.

The Michigan Legislature is still on the hook for finalizing an updated Commercial Fishing Bill. Senator Ed McBroom, who chairs the Natural Resources Committee, is still wrestling with the Michigan DNR issuing a final draft. We will endeavor to keep our readers updated. If you want to follow our stories, please Like or Follow Thumbwind’s Facebook Page.

Current Great Lakes Ice Coverage in 2021

The Detroit Army Corps of Engineers have kept records of ice coverage going back to 1973. The map shows the extent of the maximum ice cover on the Great Lakes for each year.

We are tracking the Great Lakes Ice Coverage for the Winter of 2021.


It’s now late January, and while the shallow areas of Saginaw Bay are ice-covered, much of the surrounding areas are only seeing ice coverage rates in the 2-3% range. Since January 12th, the ice cover has increased a miserly three-tenths of a percent to 2.4%. Typically at this point in the winter, the Great Lakes has an average ice coverage of 10-15%. The primary reason for low ice cover is that the region is seeing temperatures 3 to 8 degrees above normal. This warmer than average winter will likely mean less ice coverage. Recent estimates by NOAA place the highest ice coverage at 30%, occurring in late February.

What Does The Lack of Ice Coverage Mean

When the Great Lakes don’t freeze over, there is more evaporation. This puts moisture in the air resulting in more cloudy grey days across the region. If a cold snap does occur accompanied by wind, the chance for heavy, localized lake effect snow may occur. Due to higher than normal lake levels, beach erosion and lakeshore flooding may be more likely.

What is The Long Term Great Lakes Average Ice Coverage Rate

The long term average for maximum Great Lakes ice coverage is about 53.3%. This record high coverage rate for the Great Lakes was 94.7% set in 1979. The record low ice coverage in the Great Lakes was 11.9% set in 2002.

Great Lakes Annual Max Ice Coverage 1973-2020

Ice coverage data is from NOAA and updated daily. Great Lakes water level data is reported monthly from the Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District.

Great Lakes Ice Coverage January 2021 – Daily Report

Great Lakes Current Ice Coverage January 2021

Current Great Lakes Water Level Report

The report below is interactive and you can control the display. Click on the image to access the dashboard in a new tab.

Great Lakes Dashboard – Courtesy GLERL

The Detroit Army Corps of Engineers has kept records of Great Lakes ice coverage going back to 1973. The map shows the extent of the maximum ice cover on the Great Lakes for each year. Data is from the U.S. National Ice Center and the Canadian Ice Service. Satellite data is combined with other sources to translate daily ice charts into a percent cover pixel grid.

It is sporadic for all the Great Lakes to freeze over entirely. Yet they experience substantial ice coverage, with large sections of each lake freezing over in the coldest months. During the winter of 2013-2014, frigid temperatures covered the Great Lakes and the surrounding states. The persistent cold caused 91 percent of the Great Lakes to be frozen by early March 2014. This resulted in late winter of freezing temperatures but sunny clear days and nights.

Impact on 2021 Great Lakes water Levels Likely

Great Lakes Water Levels

Ice cover will lessen the impact of evaporation of Great Lakes due to less exposure to the air. It also could lower the amount of lake effect snowfall in the region. Cold temperatures in early January will be a strong indicator if the Great Lakes will approach total ice coverage in the spring of 2020. A high rate of ice coverage will likely mean higher record-setting Great Lakes water levels in the summer of 2020.

Ice Tsunami Destroys Homes Along Great Lakes Shoreline

This shows the power of water and ice when a little wind gets behind an ice flow near shore.

  • In the winter of 2018, there were two deaths and one rescue on the Saginaw Bay ice in the Upper Thumb in early February. We found a short video that describes the steps to survive falling through ice even if you can’t get yourself out of the water. It’s a fight for survival. How to Survive Falling Through the Ice
  • Great Lakes winters can be brutal. Getting your car ready for winter is critical. NOAA predicts colder-than-average and wetter-than-average conditions are most likely in the Great Lakes and parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Four Ways to Get Your Car Ready for Winter
  • Five years ago, the entire Great Lakes was witness to low water levels not seen since 1964. Marina’s were dredging; boats were being damaged on shallow reefs not seen a generation, and lake shipping was facing hard times. There was serious concern about how far it would go and what would happen next. A Look Back – 2012 Marina’s Scramble as Water Levels Dropped
  • The November 2019 update from the Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District point to an outlook that could mean the Great Lakes will continue to rise and break records in 2020. 2020 Great Lakes Water Levels Look to Break Records
  • Updated each month from the Army Corps of Engineers’ Excepts – Detroit District’s Monthly and Weekly reports for Great Lakes Water Levels and Great Lakes Water Level History. 2021 Great Lakes Current And Historical Water Levels

Gratiot Farms Wind Project Powers Up in Mid Michigan


Consumers Energy announced Gratiot Farms Wind Project is operational and contributes 150 megawatts of renewable energy to Michigan customers.

Gratiot Farms Wind Project went online on December 16 and featured 60 turbines with a 150-megawatt capacity, enough to power about 58,000 residents. Consumers Energy acquired the project from Enel Green Power America, which started developing the wind farm. Consumers Energy took ownership and responsibility for completing the construction of the project in September 2019.

Approximately 250 workers were employed during the construction of Gratiot Farms. A team of 10 highly trained full-time employees will operate the electric generation facility from a newly established service center in Middleton, Michigan, scheduled to be completed by late February.

The 24,000 acre Gratiot Farms represents a $260 million stake in Michigan’s clean energy infrastructure. It joins Lake Winds Energy Park in Mason County and Cross Winds Energy Park in Tuscola County as wind energy projects Consumers Energy owns and operates.

Consumers Energy’s Clean Energy Plan calls for eliminating coal as an energy source, achieving net-zero carbon emissions, and meeting 90% of customers’ energy needs through clean sources like renewable energy, energy waste reduction, and energy storage. Consumers Energy, Michigan’s largest energy provider.

Gratiot Find Farm Construction

Laid Off Thumb Restaurant Workers Due to COVID Can Get $1,650 Employee Assistance Grants


The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association Educational Foundation announced it would administer the Employee Assistance Grants’ application process. Employees impacted by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Gathering and Face Mask Order that took effect on November 18, 2020, are eligible to apply for one-time grants during the application period of January 15 through January 25. Restaurant and tavern workers that were impacted can receive up to $1,650.

Recent Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data illustrates that Michigan’s hospitality industry now operates with 33 percent fewer employees than it did the same time last year. This is a loss nearly twice that of the nation overall. The grants are for those workers who were laid off or had their hours reduced.

Michigan’s Thumb Restaurants and Pubs Hit Hard by Covid Orders

Workers at Shelly’s in Grindstone City

ABC News 12 reported that the Huron County Board of Commissioners sent a letter on December 30th to Governor Gretchen Whitmer pleading with her to lift the restaurant closure orders for the Thumb of Michigan. The Board conveyed to the Governor that, “Our restaurants suffered tremendously this summer over your restrictions, many of which will continue to suffer greatly with restricted occupancy. They need to be open to survive another year. We’ve already had some permanently close.”

Outdoor seating has limited restaurant and bar owners options and in some cases its carry-out only.

Eligible Industries that Workers Can Get Employee Assistance Grants

Michigan employees impacted by the MDHHS Order of November 2020 must have been working in one of the following industries to qualify for an Employee Assistance Grant:

  • Bars
  • Banquet Halls
  • Bowling Allies
  • Cafeterias
  • Casinos
  • Caterers
  • Food Trucks
  • Golf Courses
  • Hotels, Motels, Bed & Breakfast, Resorts
  • Nightclubs
  • Restaurants
  • Theaters
  • And other such recreational facilities

Employee Assistance Grants Application Process Begins January 15th

All eligible employees in Michigan should apply for Employee Assistance Grants online at beginning at 9 a.m. on Jan. 15, with the deadline for all application submissions by 5 p.m. on Jan. 25.

The website will be open for submissions throughout the ten-day period. Applicants must be Michigan residents, demonstrate proof of employment in one of the industries noted below on Nov. 18, 2020, when the MDHHS Gathering and Face Mask Order that took effect, and proof of being negatively impacted financially as a result of furlough/layoff/job loss or a reduction in hours worked. Payments up to $1,650 will be provided to approved applicants.

What Information is Needed for the Employee Assistance Grants?

The following information will be required during the online Employee Assistance Grants application process:

  • Legal name
  • Mailing address
  • Social security number
  • Date of hire
  • Employer business name, manager name, phone number, and email address
  • Proof of employment in November 2020 via a paystub or signed letter on business letterhead stating employment was impacted by MDHHS Order of November 2020

Applicants are urged to ensure their submission is correct and complete, as incorrect submissions will disqualify their application. Further information on how and when to apply can be found at the Employee Assistance Grants website.

All Employee Assistance Grant applicants will receive an email no later than Feb. 26, 2021, confirming whether the grant was approved or denied. The State of Michigan Department of Treasury will issue the grant payments. Grant awards are taxable but will not count against unemployment as income.