St. Clair Shores City Council moves forward on ramp relocation

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published January 14, 2020

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — St. Clair Shores City Council voted to approve a memorandum of understanding between the Southeast Macomb Sanitary District and the Macomb County Public Works Office to pave the way for the relocation of a boat ramp at Chapaton Retention Basin canal so that more capacity could be added to the basin.

The expansion of Chapaton Retention Basin to alleviate more combined sewer overflows, or CSOs, would necessitate the moving of the boat ramp — which is run by the city of St. Clair Shores, but also managed by the city of Eastpointe and its recreation partner, Roseville — to Blossom Heath Park.

The memorandum of understanding, which was to be considered by each community in the Southeast Macomb Sanitary District, including Eastpointe and Roseville, was a way to “make sure that what was happening there was communicated to all of the communities,” said Mayor Kip Walby. When the ramp is moved, he said, St. Clair Shores would be responsible for all operations of the boat ramp.

However, the memorandum lays out that funds from the SEMSD that would have gone toward the expansion of the retention basin canal and the relocation of the boat launch in that location will instead be used for the expansion and upgrade of the Blossom Heath boat launch, which will be able to be used by residents from all three cities.

However, the permitting process for the expansion of the retention basin has been stalled by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, or EGLE, Councilman John Caron pointed out.

The CSOs, he said, “meet their current permitting requirements, so it’s OK with them to continue to do that, but we want to go beyond that. We want to do better.”

Walby said they are working with the state legislators to convey to EGLE the importance of the expansion, which would allow for 17 million gallons of additional storage, reducing CSOs by up to 75%. In 2019, he said, there were 129 tons of CSOs released into Lake St. Clair.

“It’s going to be paid for by the ratepayers. St. Clair Shores and Eastpointe residents will pay 80% of that bill,” he said. “We, as the residents of these communities, are actually being good stewards to improve the environment, and we’re being pushed back.”

Plans to relocate the boat ramp to another location on the peninsula at Nine Mile Road were estimated to cost $22 million to $23 million. Relocating the ramp to Blossom Heath was a much cheaper option, estimated to cost between $1 million and $1.6 million to fix the pavement and seawall at Blossom Heath, and to expand the launch to accommodate more boats at one time.

The Nine Mile boat ramp has been open to the public since 2012. Non-residents pay a $15 user fee to launch boats there, compared with $10 for residents. Annual passes are $65 for residents of St. Clair Shores, Eastpointe and Roseville, or $100 for non-residents. Prior to opening the ramp up to the public, the cities of Eastpointe and St. Clair Shores took turns being in charge of the ramp so their residents could use it. When Eastpointe and Roseville merged their parks and recreation department in 2011, St. Clair Shores decided to open the ramp up to public use.

The Blossom Heath boat ramp is currently only open to residents of St. Clair Shores, who still pay a $10 daily or $65 annual fee for its use. Eliminating the Nine Mile boat ramp in favor of expanding Blossom Heath would eliminate the non-resident boaters who use the Nine Mile ramp, Walby conceded.

Because the city of Eastpointe joined with St. Clair Shores in paying for the boat ramp when it was installed in 2001, Eastpointe residents would have to be allowed to use the Blossom Heath ramp if Nine Mile was eliminated, but there is not enough parking, especially on weekends, to accommodate other out-of-town boaters. With the recreation agreement between the two communities, Roseville residents may have access to the ramp, as well.

Caron said that “it’s going to take a bit of public pressure” to convince EGLE to issue a permit for the expansion of Chapaton.

“It’s still the right thing to do,” he said. “It’s the biggest improvement to this (situation) for the last 40 years.”

However, with a goal of beginning construction on the Blossom Heath expansion in the fall, it was important to get the memorandum signed by the communities in the SEMSD, Walby said.

St. Clair Shores City Council voted 6-0 to approve the memorandum.

Neither Eastpointe nor Roseville’s city councils had taken any action on the plan as of press time.