The National Park Service (NPS) has proposed to develop a Platte River Mouth Restoration and Access Plan/Environmental Assessment (EA).
The Platte River is located in the southern portion of the National Lakeshore and discharges into Lake Michigan. Benzie County owns and manages a recreational boat launch at Platte River Point, approximately 900 feet from the river mouth, at the end of Lake Michigan Road.
Dredging between the boat launch and river mouth has been performed regularly since 1968 by the NPS or the State. Dredging has typically occurred after Labor Day, primarily at the sand bars at the river mouth.
In 2013, budget constraints led the NPS to stop dredging, and the State of Michigan dredged that year instead. Due to high lake levels and economic constraints, dredging has not occurred since then.
A large quantity of stockpiled dredge spoils (sand and gravel removed from the river) is located near the mouth of the river, on the eastern side. Dredging of the river and continued deposition of spoils on the shore cause negative environmental impacts.
The 2009 General Management Plan (GMP) for the park, states that the NPS will provide Lake Michigan boat access within a designated “high use zone” at the mouth of the Platte River that would allow for “boat ramps or docks.”
The GMP also states that a separate Environmental Impact Statement would be needed to determine whether there may be alternatives for providing this access in a way that lessens impacts to resources and visitors’ experiences and that cessation of dredging would likely be a component of one or more of these alternatives.
Two preliminary studies have been conducted to evaluate access alternatives and riverbank restoration. Alternatives developed in these studies are proposed to be evaluated as part of this planning process, including:
- Alternative 1 – Recreational boat access via the Platte River by continuing or allowing dredging and placement of the spoils on the eastern riverbank. This is called the “No Action” alternative;
- Alternative 2 – Recreational boat access via the Platte River without dredging; removal of the existing dredge spoil pile and restoration of the eastern riverbank;
- Alternative 3 – New recreational boat access east of the river mouth; removal of the existing dredge spoil pile and restoration of the eastern riverbank;
- Alternative 4 – New recreational boat access at Illinois Drive; removal of the existing dredge spoil pile and restoration of the eastern riverbank;
- Alternative 5 – New recreational boat access at Tiesma Road; removal of the existing dredge spoil pile and restoration of the eastern riverbank.
A public scoping meeting on this project is scheduled for October 15, 2015 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center Auditorium in Empire, Michigan.
Deadline for sending comments to the National Lakeshore is November 15, 2015. The comments submitted during this planning period will be evaluated and considered during the development of the EA. The EA is scheduled to be made available for further public review and comment in fall 2016.