Record low levels on Lake Michigan have left waterfront communities in the region and throughout the Great Lakes scrambling to save their summer boating seasons.
In New Buffalo, for example, an emergency dredge on a roughly 1,000 foot stretch of the Galien River is planned in the spring from the Whittaker St. bridge to the city's public boat launch.
Bob Stratton, owner of Service 1 Marine outside New Buffalo, says the water is shallow enough to wonder if large boats will make into their slips without running aground.
''Everybody is having the same problem,'' said Stratton.
Trail Creek in Michigan City is especially shallow south and east of the Franklin St. bridge toward B & E Marine and Blue Chip, an area with many boat slips and a heavily used municipal boat launch, said Gene Davis, a conservation officer with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
''The people who have slips up in there are going to have problems getting up and down that creek,'' said Davis.
Lake Michigan due to warm, dry weather is 17 inches lower than it was this time last year and down by about six feet from the record highs of the mid-1980's.
Throughout Michigan, support is growing for the state to spend 30 million dollars from its rainy day account to dredge Great Lakes harbors grappling with low water levels.
If approved, lawmakers would search for permanent revenue sources for dredging at a time when the federal government is cutting back on dredging.
The city of New Buffalo has obtained more than $100,000 in casino revenues from the Pokagon Band of Potawattomie Indians to help pay for the cost of an emergency dredge.
A percentage of the money the city collects from boat launch fees and slip rental will cover the balance of the expense, said New Buffalo Mayor Warren Peterson.
The city is waiting for approval of permit applications and results of soundings to determine the depth of the river before obtaining a formal cost estimate.
''If everything checks out we'll be proceeding with that plan,'' said Peterson.
In Michigan City, the channel closer to the lake is in much better shape. Dredging there occurred in the spring because a lack of ice last winter allowed strong northerly winds to push sand from the lake's bottom into the mouth and somewhat into the creek.
So far, there has not been talk of doing another dredge, said Duane Parry, president of the city council.
''There's been no discussion of it,'' said Parry.
Receding water levels also mean ramps becoming too short to launch boats.
New Buffalo has approved extending its ramps with gravel until water levels go back up.
Last year, ramps were starting to become too short and some boaters wound up ripping the wheels off trailers and calling tow trucks after going down over the edge, said Stratton.
''We got some big boats we got to get into the water. It's going to be challenging,'' said Stratton.
''We won't know the extent of the problems until the weather warms up and the boats start getting put in,'' said Davis.