South Baymouth sees survey work done by government at channel entrance

Info will determine if future dredging will be required

SOUTH BAYMOUTH—It appears that steps are being taken to determine if future dredging will be required at South Baymouth. After record low water levels and a delayed ferry sailing season this year, the people of Manitoulin Island and the northern Bruce Peninsula are deeply concerned about the continued operation of the Chi-Cheemaun ferry service between South Baymouth and Tobermory, which accounts for as much as $30 million to the local Island economy.

For three days last week, a survey team from Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS) could be seen collecting data in the channel that leads from Georgian Bay into South Bay using a multi-beam echo-sounder in combination with a global positioning system (GPS). The result will be a comprehensive and accurate three-dimensional map of the lake bed at the channel approach.

The data from this survey will update nautical charts as CHS last did work in this area in 2003. “The survey’s primary function is to provide CHS with information necessary to produce chart updates that inform all mariners using the area, not just OSTC,” said Susan Schrempf, president and CEO of Owen Sound Transportation Company (OSTC). “OSTC has a specific interest in the survey information, first to ensure the ferry masters have accurate and up-to-date information with which to make safe navigating decisions in the extreme low water conditions currently being experienced in the spring and fall. And in the longer term, the information will be used to determine if future dredging will be required to ensure the ferry has a safe channel to operate in, and the extent and location of same.”

Should the trend toward lower water levels continue, necessitating dredging or blasting to deepen the channel, it won’t happen quickly. There are cost considerations and approvals required from both federal and provincial governments.

“It’s a good thing the survey is being done,” said Tehkummah Reeve Gary Brown. “That’s the first step. But it’s just one step.”

by Lori Thompson