Low Levels, High Impact

We asked a number of area businesses and leaders this question: “How are low lake levels affecting you?” These were their responses.

Casey St. Henry, Program Manager at Bayshore Outfitters

“We know there are going to be some places on the lakeside where we can’t launch kayak tours and we’ll have some rental sites that no longer touch the water, so we have to figure out a way to get our equipment down there. We have to figure out how to run a business at shore level and launch down at lake level.”

Fuzzy Sunstrom, Owner at Little Sister Resort and Fred and Fuzzy’s Waterfront Bar and Grill in Sister Bay

“We’re pretty fortunate in that we have deeper water than most. We’re just at the point there where we might have to dredge. Yes we get a lot of boat traffic, but the majority of our traffic is by vehicle. So if someone can’t get their boat in where they normally would, I think they’d still come in by car.”

Kelli Bruns, Superintendent at Peninsula State Park

“Last year we really started to notice it towards the end of our summer season. We didn’t see anything reflected in our attendance, but we did receive comments in regards to the Nicolet Bay area. We have more beach there now…and we had to adjust our swim buoys. Another one of the aspects we’re looking at is the invasive species side; we’ve had discussions about what kinds of invasives we’ll see lakeside.”

John Asher, President of Roen Salvage in Sturgeon Bay

“[The lake levels] don’t really impact us directly. Most of our work is with the Army Corps of Engineers and just having low water isn’t going to make them run out and spend more money. We do work with some local people who need dredging, but that’s not the majority of our work. But it’s a concern for everyone.”

Rob Burke, UW-Extension Community Development and Door County Legislative Days Steering Committee Member

“The low water is causing a lot of problems and there’s a need in a lot of communities for dredging and permits. It’s extremely expensive and there’s not a lot of money there. We don’t know what the solution is, but it’s sort of a general topic that we’ll bring a lot of proposals and ideas on.”

Erik Aleson, County Parks Department Director

“We were actually just having a conversation about that as far as boat landings and getting our piers in. [The levels] have been down for several years at a lot of our landings and we’ve had at least two of them, [at Sugar Creek and Murphy County Park], that haven’t been open. People kind of use them at their own risk, and we haven’t been charging for them.”

Rachel Willems, Executive Director with the Ephraim Business Council

“Working at the Visitor Center here, it’s definitely something a lot of visitors will ask about. They’ll ask why the water’s so low, and I’ll tell them there’s a lot of different theories out there but it’s one of those things that’s cyclical. But I haven’t heard about it actually affecting any businesses adversely as far as people not renting rooms or anything.”

Russ Forkert, Owner of Yacht Works in Sister Bay

“We have deep water marina slips, and most of the other marinas in the area have shallower water, so our marina’s going to be jampacked full of boats this season. And we work with Mike Kahr from Death’s Door Construction, and he’s actually so busy he can’t keep up with his dredging. So we’ve been subcontracting with him, and it actually gave us some additional work over the winter.”

Nancy Bertz, General Manager at Stone Harbor Resort and Conference Center in Sturgeon Bay

“It hasn’t affected us too much except we’ve got a few local people that have signed up to use our marina because they can’t use the ones at their homes, and we have a deeper draw. People do comment about it all time though, about the water being low.”

Dave Nelson, South Shore Pier Boat Rental in Ephraim

“It’s just added costs. We had to add a walkway to our main pier because it’s too high for our boats. We did that quite a few years ago now. The parasailing boat is the biggest boat that goes in and out and he had trouble last season. And we may have to move where we send jet skis in and out of because it was getting too shallow last season. We’re lucky in that it hasn’t shut us down, but it’s still expensive for us.”

Jeff Weborg, Co-Owner of J and M Fisheries in Gills Rock

“We are having to dredge our harbor because we can’t get in. Ever since the lake water started going down in the mid-80s we’ve dredged several times and can’t get any financial assistance. The farmer, he gets all kinds of stuff and we bail him out, but we get nothing. We have to maintain our own stuff.”