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.

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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.

Sincerely,

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.

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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

9 Reasons to Consider Renting An RV or Camper At a Michigan State Park In 2021

The Covid pandemic has caused folks to curtail travel. However a new interest in camping now giving families safe way to be outdoors and explore safely.

Also the Michigan DNR has worked with local companies that offer RV and camper rental delivery and set up services in Michigan’s State Parks. This allows outdoor camping for those who want the experience of staying in a camper but not the ownership of one.

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One of the things people miss most about their pre-pandemic lives is travel. Many feel there is just no way to resume traveling adventures while still keeping social distancing rules. Fortunately, this really isn’t true. The answer? RV or camper traveling.

A study conducted in the Fall of 2020 by KOA noted that current campers predict to take their planned camping trip this year, and non-campers say they are now interested in camping due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Leisure travelers – including campers and non-campers – rank camping as the safest form of travel to resume once constraints are lifted.

9 Reasons For An Michigan RV Rental in 2021

Renting an RV or camper is a great way to try camping before investing in one. Plus, this year, it may be considered a cheaper and safer option than roundtripping and staying in hotels. The camper rental company RVshare gave us some great reasons to consider renting an RV and hitting the road this year.

#1 – You Can Avoid Sharing Bathrooms

With the Covid pandemic still raging in this country through 2021, it’s best to entirely avoid public restrooms.

#2 – You Can Cook Your Own Meals

Many of us don’t want others handling our food. When you travel in an RV, you can skip eating out and cook your own favorite meals in a little kitchen that you know is clean.

#3 – You Can Sleep in the Same Bed

Camping in your own RV lessens the risk of bedbugs from a hotel or getting sick with someone else’s germs. You can sleep in the same bed for your entire trip, no matter how many places you stay.

#4 – You can Stay Away From Other People

This perhaps should be the #1 reason to rent your own camper or RV. Staying away from people is key to assuring you avoid capturing the coronavirus. By choosing outdoor activities, you can very comfortably socially distance while still having a great time.

#5 Getting outside in the Sun

It has been suggested that the best way to perk up your immune system is to get out in the sun. Getting out in the sunshine is the best way for your body to produce vitamin D, which can strengthen your immune system, helping you stay healthy all year long.

#6 Getting Outdoors When Camping

Fresh air is amazingly beneficial to your well-being. It can help clear your mind and reduce stress, reduce your blood pressure and heart rate.

#7 Camping Perks Up Your Mental Outlook

Being stuck inside and isolated from the rest of the world since last March isn’t good for anyone. Getting outside, exploring the outdoors, and moving around are all wonderful for your mental health.

#8 You Can Finally See this Great Country of Ours

Traveling outside of our country, even up to Canada, is darn near impossible. Many countries are not allowing US citizens entry and traveling by plane isn’t advisable. 2021 is a great time to click off those sites on your bucket list that you wanted to see in the U.S.

#9 You can Take the Road Less Traveled

You can be more adventurous and travel off the beaten path, knowing you’ll be able to sleep and eat in comfort that night, no matter where you end up. The opportunity to be spontaneous and see something on a mere whim is something we could all use after being on lockdown.

Renting an RV or Camper For Your Next Vacation

Some of the images or links below may contain affiliate links in which we might receive a commission. Please see our disclosure here

Camping, glamping, and road trips may replace other types of planned trips in 2020.

Interest in RV camping among campers and non-campers can be attributed to cleanliness concerns at other accommodations like hotels or resorts and interest in avoiding shared facilities. Renting an RV or Camper may be the best way for those who have never camped before to try out the experience.

COVID-19 concerns will impact camper’s camp in the short term, including smaller group sizes, camping closer to home, and accommodation choices. If you are considering an RV for your next trip, explore and reserve at RVShare.


Renting An RV or Camper at Michigan’s State Parks

For several years the Michigan DNR has worked with local companies that offer RV motorhome and camper rental delivery and set up services in Michigan’s State Parks. This allows outdoor camping for those who want the experience of staying in a camper but not the ownership of one. It’s a great option for those who want to explore and camp throughout Michigan but don’t want to tow a 30-foot camper for 700 miles.

Port Crescent State Park Campground

Over 30 Michigan DNR, approved vendors can deliver RVs and campers to Michigan’s State Parks. Many of the vendors listed indicate they can deliver to all parks, while some serve specific park campgrounds. This is a great option for those who cannot tow a camper themselves. With a little planning, you can reserve a motorhome rental in Michigan and have it set up for you in any of Michigan’s State Park campgrounds.

Port Crescent State Park Campground Site 70

Camping is considered a safe, economical family get-a-way activity that is increasing in popularity this year. With many working at home, camping is considered an option for those who can work anywhere. Both state parks in Michigan’s Thumb; Albert E. Sleeper and Port Crescent, offer WiFi services. This is ideal for those who need to open a laptop and check email or a project’s work status. Telecommuting while RV camping in a beautiful park setting is a wonderful alternative to working at home.

The Pop-Up, Camper and RV Rental Process

The first step is to reserve a campsite at one of the Michigan state parks you want to visit. The Michigan DNR has an on-line reservation system that can now indicate open sites with only a few days’ lead time. Be sure to note the number and the size of your campsite. You will need this information when renting your pop up camper or RV motorhome.

Next, review the list of camper and RV motorhome vendors that can deliver and set up your rental pop up camper, fifth wheel, or RV at a Michigan park. Our review shows that you can get a full-size camper that sleeps 6 to 8 people from $125-150 a night. Pop up campers range from $300 for a 3 day stay to a full week, (7 days), at $500. Pop up campers can sleep up to six. Consider the security deposit, pet and smoking fees and cancellation terms into your budget

What Should You Bring When you Rent an RV or Camper at a Michigan State Park?

Here is a list of suggested items you will want to bring with you when camping.

  • Bedding + pillows
  • Cooking utensils (including pots & pans)
  • Outdoor grill and utensils
  • Personal items (soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, etc)
  • Bath towels & washcloths
  • Bug Spray
  • Wood and lighter for campfire
  • Smores (marshmallows, graham crackers, chocolate bars)
  • Swimsuits and beach towels
  • Hiking shoes
  • Small mat to wipe your feet

Once you’re ready to leave your pop-up or Michigan RV motorhome rental, you just clean up, pack your belongings and leave. There are no worries about towing, pump-outs, or storage when you get home.

What Can Be Rented at Michigan State Parks?

Horse Rentals And Guiding Services – Privately owned riding stables and guiding services operate in five southeastern Michigan state parks.

Cabins, Lodges, Safari Tents, and Yurts – This is a more upscale camping experience. Numerous state parks now have remote rustic cabin, lodges, safari-style tents, pop-up campers, cottages, tepees, and yurts available for rent.

Track Chairs – Seven state parks have or will offer these great replacements for wheelchairs for an off-road experience. The electronic chairs can easily handle trails, snow, sand, and up to 8 inches of water. They are available on a first-come, first-served basis at no cost.

Bike Rental – Currently eight state parks offer bike rental

Camping Gear Rentals – Offers tents, sleeping bags, camp chairs for camping and backpacking.

Canoes, Kayaks, and Paddleboards – Forty Michigan state parks located on the water offer various boat rentals.



RV Motorhome Michigan

7 Secrets to Learn About the Tawas Point Lighthouse

Across Saginaw Bay from Michigan’s Thumb sits one of the prettiest lighthouses in Michigan.

The Michigan History Center has produced a video that offers viewers a virtual tour of climbing the lighthouse tower. As each step is made up of the tower, bits of history and fascinating design and functional aspects of the lighthouse are revealed. In the end, there is a little test you can take to on seven of the little aspects of the Tawas Point Lighthouse.

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Across Saginaw Bay from Michigan’s Thumb sits one of the prettiest lighthouses in Michigan. The Tawas Point Lighthouse was in operation during the lumber boom in 1876 and ran continuously until 2016. The lighthouse and tower sit on a sandy point of land that is said to be always changing. It was said that ship traffic on Saginaw Bay during the late 1800s resembled a busy highway.

This Tawas Point Lighthouse is actually the second lighthouse on the point. The first light station was built in 1853. However, the shifting sands on the point continued to grow until it was of no use to navigation. The 67-foot tower for the second light was built in 1873 and finished in time for the shipping season in 1876. The light was powered by kerosene until 1935, when it was converted to electricity. The 200,000 candle power light can be seen for 16 miles out into Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay. The fourth-order Fresnel lens is still in place.

Tawas Point Lighthouse Tower Climb Video

The Michigan History Center has produced a video that offers viewers a virtual tour of climbing the lighthouse tower. As each step is made up of the tower, bits of history and fascinating design and functional aspects of the lighthouse are revealed. In the end, there is a little test you can take to on seven of the little aspects of the Tawas Point Lighthouse.


Fun Activities at the Lighthouse

Today the lighthouse is part of Tawas Point State Park, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources maintains responsibly for the lighthouse structure and grounds. Lighthouse tours are led during most weekends each summer, from Memorial Day to Labor Day. There are also special events, such as the Tawas Point Haunted Lighthouse weekend, in October.

Gratiot Farms Wind Project Powers Up in Mid Michigan

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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

A Lost Lumber and Company Town – New River Michigan

On the shores of Lake Huron near the tip of Michigan’s Thumb is a well appointed cottage community that used to be a thriving company lumber town. New River Michigan as been almost erased by time and nature.

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A Vanished Town in Michigan’s Thumb

Near the tip of the eastern side of Michigan’s thumb lays a small cluster of neatly appointed cottages and mobile homes, some with a commanding view of the Lake Huron. This neighborhood is situated near a creek called New River. There is a street with a neat name, “Tip O Thumb Drive.” It describes the neighborhood perfectly. It’s almost idyllic. The question is, did someone develop this as a neighborhood during the cottage boom after World War II? Surprisingly this cottage retirement community is way older than that. It’s the site of a vanished Michigan town.



New River Michigan in 1900

An 1870 plat map shows New River with a grid of plotted streets on both sides of the river and a large dock extending out into Lake Huron. By 1900 all references to this community were gone, erased, expunged from the public record. This little “neighborhood” was once the thriving company town. However, the former town has been erased by time and nature and a bit of redevelopment


The Incorporation of New River, Michigan

The town of New River was located about a mile from Huron City and eight miles from Port Austin. From initial land grants dated May 12, 1845, to J. Spikerman and Walter Hume. Originally starting as a fishing village, the hamlet developed quickly.

In the creek at New River, fish were so plentiful that it was a common practice for early settlers to catch them in the Spring in huge nets. Often a year’s worth of fish could be put away in barrels and cured. Sturgeon was common and frequently caught. 

In the early 1900s, there are stories of local residents and farmers finding stone arrowheads and clay and stone pipes around New River creek. The local lore at the time alluded to the belief that it was once an Indian village or a hunting and gathering site for one of the many tribes that crisscrossed the region prior to European settlements.

Lumber was the Primary Export of New River in the late 1800’s

New River Experienced Rapid Growth

A sawmill was built in 1853 using the water power of New River Creek. In addition to providing a power source, the creek carried the mill’s sawdust out into the lake. (Editor Note…this contrasts with operations at Port Crescent which used sawdust and lumbering waste as a source of fuel. ) A grist mill came in 1856. By 1858, industrialists Howe & Clark employed up to 100 men and built docks for shipment of lumber.

Other men who came there in the 1850s were J. R. Chambers in 1851, John Ginn in 1853, Francis Palms, in 1854, S.  Sharpstein 1855, Thomas Donahue in 1856, and Alexander Miller in 1858. Here Cooper, Creevy & Go. used to operate an extensive salt block. However, their headquarters were in Port Austin.

It’s interesting to note that the first official deed recorded in Huron County Michigan was from Lorenz M. Mason to the County of Huron. It is for a  sum of $175 and describes what is now known as the New River Cemetery, consisting of four acres. The deed describes as being the burying ground now in use Huron township, the last vestige of this vanished Michigan town

A Typical Michigan Lumber Mill

By 1870 more lumbermen arrived, Cooper, Creevy, and Noble came and operated mills, established two salt wells; one was 1040 feet deep and the other was 1003 feet deep. These wells produced on an average of 150 barrels of salt a day. The salt was shipped to Detroit, Toledo and St. Louis. Even today it’s said that that near the mouth of the New River Creek, there are still the foundation pilings driven in the ground where the salt blocks were located.


Map Showing New River in 1858

New River was a Company Town

The company owned almost the whole village. They owned the cooper shop and made their own barrels for transporting salt, the houses in which the workers lived, their own lumber mills, and blacksmith shop. The company built and maintained a boarding house. This town had a long dock where steamers regularly stopped for freight and passengers.

There is one sad chapter in the short history of New River. On October 23rd, 1871 there was a boiler explosion at the grist mill and salt block owned by W.H. Cooper. It was 1:30 in the afternoon when the mill was just starting its operations. Suddenly, the boiler head blew up severely scalding five men and an 11-year-old boy who was in the fire room at the time. Three of the men and the boy died of their burns.

Per Mr. James Kilpratrick, a state Geologist who visited in 1937, New River had the finest grade of salt found in Michigan.  However, the salt block was discontinued in 1886 due to the economic downturn of the late 1800s. The low price of salt and the increasing costs of fuel doomed the operation. (Note The fuel was likely coal, and it was getting too expensive in the 1890s as a fuel source. Also, cheap slashing and sawdust were no longer available as lumbering operations waned. By 1865 all sawmill operations at New River had ceased. )

Lumbermen in the 1800s

One of the final acts of New River took place in 1895 at the Michigan Supreme Court. Noble vs. Thompson’s case involved the debts and mortgage and taxes of the salt block at New River.

Local lore from 1883  noted that this town had a long dock where steamers regularly stopped for freight and passengers. The small town had a store, a church, and a schoolhouse. When the salt industry declined, the town began to go down. Finally, every vestige of what had been a flourishing town disappeared.

Today all that remains of the vanished Michigan lumber town of New River is the cemetery and the salt block’s foundations, which are buried near today’s cottages overlooking Lake Huron.

Michigan Ghost Towns

Sources for Vanished Michigan Towns

Pioneer history of Huron County, Michigan by Florence McKinnon Gwinn.

History of Grindstone City Area, Grindstone City, Huron County, Michigan