Ramp fee proposed, again, to help address St. Joseph River weed issue
Posted: 08/12/2012 at 1:15 am
By: Tim Vandenack
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Weeds can be seen on the surface of the St. Joseph River east of the dam Tuesday, August 7, 2012. Experts are preparing a strategy plan for how best to control the weeds in the coming years. (Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard)
Weeds can be seen on the surface of the St. Joseph River near Bulldog Crossing Tuesday. Experts are preparing a strategy plan for how best to control the weeds in the coming years.
Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard
Tom Shoff, president of the St. Joseph River Association, said Friday that he plans to bring the issue back up with Elkhart County commissioners. Weed growth is a continual problem along the St. Joseph River here and, per his proposal, the funds generated would be used to help offset costs of controlling the growth.
No firm meeting has been set, but Shoff said he’ll approach commissioners “as soon as they’ll talk to me.”
It could be a short meeting.
A similar proposal emerged in August 2010, generating an uproar from boat users, and commissioners ultimately shelved the idea. Likewise, neither Terry Rodino nor Mike Yoder, two of the county’s three commissioners, seemed particularly enthusiastic about the idea when contacted Friday. As is, it’s free to use the boat ramp.
The idea was “very unpopular” when it came up two years ago, Yoder said.
Rodino said if all the homeowners up and down the river from the Johnson Street dam to Bristol were pitching in money to address the weed issue, that might justify charging other users a fee. But not all homeowners are contributing funds, he said.
Shoff and the St. Joseph River Association hosted a meeting Thursday to discuss the weed issue. Some 200 people attended and those present provided $1,100 in funds, though Shoff thinks around $30,000 is needed to contend with the issue through the rest of the boating season this year.
A variety of weeds grow in the river, creating an obstacle for boaters and aesthetic issues. The problem has increased in the last seven years or so, but the growth has been particularly heavy this year due to a mild winter and a relatively dry spring.
Neither the city of Elkhart nor Elkhart County have provided funds to cull the weeds and only limited funding is available from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Thus, it’s fallen on homeowners to pool their resources to cover the bulk of the cost of chemically treating the weeds.
“The problem is our problem to take care of,” Shoff said.
Homeowners along the St. Joseph River favor the idea of a fee to use the boat ramp at Six Span Bridge on the eastern edge of Elkhart, Shoff said. A Mishawaka fisherman said at Thursday’s meeting that he’d be fine paying to use the facility, he added.
Under the plan, users would pay $7 to use the ramp, rebuilt as part of the recent reconstruction of Six Span Bridge and reopened last year. Annual passes could also be created, allowing users to pay a one-time fee for unlimited use.
Though homeowners along the St. Joseph River upstream of the Johnson Street dam have been particularly vocal on the issue, it’s not the only section of waterway with weeds.
Martha McLemore, who lives off one of the St. Joseph River’s channels just west of Elkhart, said weeds are a big issue there, too, also hampering water activities. “It’s just been getting progressively worse each summer for the past 10 years,” she said.
Shoff echoed that, but said the problem is more acute east of Johnson Street dam. The river east of the dam is shallower, for one thing, which fosters weed growth.