Cooley Canal, shown east of Maumee Bay State Park in 2000, is being dredged this season with a grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Paul Ashburn has docked his boat at Anchor Pointe Marina since 1987, but shallow water levels in the Cooley Canal limited his access last year into Lake Erie.
Concerns about sediment buildup that often made the channel impassable, and the impact on boater safety prompted Mr. Ashburn and other members of Anchor Pointe and Meinke marinas to partner with the Lucas County Commissioners in securing a $332,800 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to dredge the waterway.
“Last year the water was so low all season our boat never went out on the lake. This year I intend to take my grandsons fishing. I want to take a couple trips to Put-In-Bay, Kelleys Island, and Cedar Point,” said Mr. Ashburn, a member of Anchor Pointe’s board of directors.
George Gradel Co., which was awarded the county contract for the dredging project, last week finished removing nearly 17,000 cubic yards of sediment from the Lake Erie tributary in Jerusalem Township.
The dredging now provides seven to eight feet of depth along the entire length of the 3,000-foot channel.
Mr. Ashburn said the dredging will improve access for people who use the 560 boat slips at Anchor Pointe and nearly 750 slips at Meinke, the 20 charter and commercial fish businesses that operate out of the marinas, as well as the hundreds of boaters who launch from the county-owned public boat ramp.
“Last year we only had about two feet of water in September and October, depending on which way the wind was blowing,” Mr. Ashburn said. “Right now we got about eight feet. It was dredged to five feet below water datum, which is set by the Army Corp of Engineers.”
Mr. Ashburn said last year there were instances of sailboats getting stuck in sandbars, clogging access to other watercraft in the channel, and creating a potentially dangerous situation during storms.
“Our worry was that somebody was going to get hurt,” he said.
The marina boards went to work on the ODNR grant application in September, using the county commissioners as their sponsors. The Recreational Harbor Evaluation Program didn’t require any matching funds from the county.
Mr. Ashburn said he was surprised at the quick turnaround it took for the grant application that the county engineer submitted on behalf of the marinas. He said the application process that usually takes up to 12 weeks was accomplished in four weeks.
“That is the kind of help and cooperation we got from the [ODNR],” he said.
Phil Miller, research planning administrator for the ODNR, said the Recreational Harbor Evaluation Program does not use state general fund tax money, and instead is funded with motor vehicle gas tax and fees from boat titles and registration.
“The funds are from a dedicated funding source derived from the recreational boating community. These projects are a return of the boaters’ dollars from improving recreational boating access in Ohio,” he said.
Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak said the marinas and related businesses pump more than $2.5 million annually into the local economy through fishing and boating activities.
“The Cooley Canal project shows that a small investment in economic development can have big effects. Now thousands of boaters will be able to enjoy Lake Erie this summer, adding millions of dollars to Lucas County’s economy,” she said.
Carol Contrada, president of the commissioners, added: “Cooley Canal is the gateway to the Lake Erie, the Great Lakes, and international waters. ... We anticipate that 1,500 boaters will have better access to the lake through the canal and about 3,000 jobs are supported by this particular access to the lake.”
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