Little Lake Harbor flooding threatens Luce County resort

TV6 Investigates plays role in helping raise urgency of flooding impact
The Army Corps of Engineers identified the need for emergency dredging Thursday morning at a harbor in Luce County.
Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 4:01 PM EDT
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MCMILLAN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WLUC) - The Army Corps of Engineers identified the need for emergency dredging Thursday morning at a harbor in Luce County.

This comes after TV6 began investigating flooding issues at the harbor. The owner and operator of the Del-Les Resort Rory Lamenek, which has been on Little Lake since 1941, reached out to the station last Thursday.

She described the flooding as a huge risk to the future of the harbor if not taken care of.

“It is not safe for any vessel to try and get into this harbor, which is a huge risk to public safety, as well as the flooding going on here is causing us to worry that we will lose our business by next year if it is not resolved,” Lamenek said.

The Army Corps of Engineers typically dredge the harbor every year or two to prevent flooding, but it has not happened on Little Lake Harbor since 2018.

“The corps last dredged Little Lake in 2018 and we have been identifying Little Lake Harbor as needing dredging funds since 2020 annually,” LeighAnn Ryckeghem, Sault Ste. Marie Project Office, operations manager said. “We have been actively seeking funding for maintenance dredging, but it is competing against other harbors across the country.”

On June 5, TV6 submitted a media request to the Detroit District Army Corps of Engineers and asked if there was available funding for maintenance and why dredging was not taking place at the harbor anymore.

On June 6, the Army Corps of Engineers reallocated a small number of funds allowing a crew to begin preliminary restoration work at the harbor yesterday.

Lemanek says she is thankful for the Engineer’s help and is already seeing water levels recede.

“We have had tremendous support from the local office of the Corps of Engineers, and they are up here now following up on attempting to get these flood waters to come down a little bit,” Lemanek said. “They successfully got an excavator down to the water level and have been digging the channel for the last couple of hours. We’re excited for their help.”

A 1982 study done by the Detroit District Army Corps of Engineers found the original design of the harbor creates a gyre effect that erodes the eastern portion of the harbor. This leads to sand build-up. The study concluded that a redesign of the harbor is needed to ensure flooding is not an issue annually.

Since the harbor’s construction, the Corps of Engineers has spent $5,033,227 on dredging.

“We are actively looking into the assessment of the functionality and that is part of our budgeting request process as well to continue to make sure our harbor is functioning as intended and if not what can be done to rectify those issues or deficiencies that we are seeing,” Ryckeghem said.

Lemanek says while she is thankful for the Engineers’ help, flooding will continue to threaten her business year after year if a redesign is not completed.

“We hope that the Corps of Engineers is able to successfully redesign this harbor so it can continue to operate for public safety troubles, tribal subsistence, as well as eliminate this flooding crisis that will regenerate if it’s not properly redesigned,” Lemanek said.

Ryckeghem says the work done yesterday is not a long-term solution to the flooding this year. She says the Corps is waiting for more funding to be approved so it can hire a crew to dredge the harbor.

The Army Corps of Engineers says it does not have a timeline for dredging at the Little Lake Harbor.

TV6 will continue to follow the story as it progresses.