Boaters work to overcome high water levels, COVID-19

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SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — The start of the boating season is underway, but 2020 will bring some challenges out on the water this Memorial Day weekend.

High water levels and coronavirus restrictions are having an impact in west Michigan.

In South Haven, two of the four city-owned marinas are open. The Black River Park marina and the Maritime docks are ready for visitors.

Assistant City Manager and Harbor Master Kate Hosier says high water levels have closed the northside marina to repair electrical equipment and to raise the height of the docks.

The city council approved a $1.75 million purchase agreement on Monday to fix the problems.

Boats in South Haven on May 21, 2020.
Boats in South Haven on May 21, 2020.

“We’re hoping to get that work underway pretty soon. We are hoping to be open by next season,” Hosier said.

The city is also waiting until June 1 to open the southside marina, which is for boaters staying for up to 14 days.

The challenges could not keep Fisherman Matt Formsma from his first boating trip of the season.

“Coming through some of the roads are blocked off, some of the docks are underwater. But other than that, it’s a pretty standard, pretty beautiful day,” Formsma said.

Big fish have even made their way into floodwaters near the Black River Park boat launch. But Formsma says the high water levels and coronavirus restrictions are nothing he cannot handle.

South Haven on May 21, 2020.
South Haven on May 21, 2020.

“A little bit more planning ahead required because you don’t know what’s going to be open and when,” Formsma said.

Coronavirus restrictions and recent bad weather have also delayed many people putting boats in the water.

Barney Pero, the owner of J&B Landing Boat Service, says they are working as hard as they can.

“We were a slow start on the boats because of the virus and the lockdown,” Pero said.

Pero is thanking his customers for their patience and understanding.

“No matter how many boats we have to do, we’re still only going to get eight or 10 boats in, in a day’s time,” Pero said.

According to Formsma, pandemic restrictions have a lot of boaters ready to spend time out on the water.

“We’ve been kind of pent-up, so it’s just great to get outside and get back to doing what we like to do,” Formsma said.

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