Popular Lake Michigan buoy in jeopardy

Port Sheldon buoy that has provided boaters and anglers with invaluable wave and temperature data may not return in 2016.

The Port Sheldon buoy in Lake Michigan has provided invaluable data to boaters and anglers. Photo: LimnoTech

The Port Sheldon buoy in Lake Michigan has provided invaluable data to boaters and anglers. Photo: LimnoTech

If you have a boat docked in Grand Haven, Port Sheldon, Holland, or Saugatuck you probably have the buoy station 45029 bookmarked for quick reference. In 2015, this buoy, which was deployed just west of Port Sheldon, generated 800,000 requests for data that included wave height, surface temperature, and even a profile of water temperatures at depths from 3 to 69 feet. A webcam mounted on the buoy even provided real time video and images to help mariners gauge the safety of conditions on the big lake.

Funding for the buoy initially came from a NOAA Coastal Storms grant, but grants such as this often do not cover the continuing cost of operation and maintenance. Local groups including Grand Haven Steelheaders, Grand Haven Charter Boat Association, and Michigan Lake Shore Charter Boat Association have already been involved in covering some buoy costs, but current funding is not sufficient to bring the buoy back for 2016.

This is why LimnoTech and Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS) launched a fundraising campaign that kicked off with an informational meeting on Dec. 7, 2015, in Holland. Local boaters and anglers learned about the wider network of buoys that monitor conditions around the Great Lakes. The upper portion of the buoy was also on hand. 

LimnoTech’s Ed VerHamme, also will be presenting on the topic of Great Lakes monitoring buoys at the Ludington Regional Fisheries Workshop on Jan. 9, 2016. This workshop, which is offered by Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension in partnership with West Shore Community College, will feature a variety of current issues that face Great Lakes anglers. 

Continued operation of the Port Sheldon buoy will require creative approaches to local involvement and public-private partnerships. Other Great Lakes ports could take similar steps to increase the functionality of existing buoys (e.g., adding the ability to monitor currents), maintain existing buoys, or even add new locations to the buoy monitoring network.

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 33 university-based programs.

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