July 28, 2014

SS Badger suffers setback

The Lake Michigan car ferry — owners of the SS Badger — suffered a major setback last week when congress removed an amendment from a coast guard spending bill that would’ve allowed the Badger to keep dumping coal ash into Lake Michigan for as long as the ship can run. Sixth District Congressman Tom Petri was one of several lawmakers that inserted the amendment in an effort to keep the big-ship running beyond next Wednesday.

Manitowoc Mayor Justin Nickels had this reaction. “Even though congress has made a decision not to give them historical status, it still lies in the hands of the EPA — which is a nonpolitical body separate from congress, which can make its own decision on this … congress couldn’t agree on this much like a lot of things lately.”

The cross-lake service between Manitowoc and Ludington operates from Memorial Day weekend through mid October, and has been looking for alternative methods of fuel to power the ferry, including natural gas. Nickels said the Lake Michigan car ferry needs time and resources to achieve that goal. “They are more than willing to work with the EPA to deal with the issue of the coal ash. It’s a private business, so they make the decisions on their own, but I’m very confident in talking with them that things look positive.”

As for the economic impact if the Badger ceases operation? “Just like the power plant in Kewaunee, it’s devastating when that happens. We treat it as a business. The economic impact to our local economy is greater than no other, that’s why we’re working as diligently as we can with the company to do what we can on our end to ensure its survival.”

The SS Badger is the last coal burning steamship on the Great Lakes.

Brian Norton, WMOT