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Cheboygan tissue plant fire now impacting DNR’s ability to control water levels in the area

CHEBOYGAN — Problems continue to linger after last year’s tissue plant fire in downtown Cheboygan.

Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources says as a result of last September’s fire, the plant’s hydroelectric generator now has to be shut down.

The hydroelectric generation facility is one of five points of water level control on the Cheboygan River and accounts for about 30% of the water passing out of the river into Lake Huron.

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Ron Olson, Chief of Parks and Recreation, says the DNR’s goal is to keep a good balance when it comes to maintaining water levels on Mullett Lake and other waterways in the Cheboygan area.

“Now that the paper plan isn’t running the power generation, it reduces our flexibility,” said Olson. “If the river gets too shallow, then people can’t get to [Mullett Lake] with their boat.”

The DNR says they now will have to use the 6 gates at the Cheboygan Dam to manage the water levels.

Jack Woudenberg owns Jack’s Mullett Lake Marina. They store hundreds of boats in the wintertime and deliver them back to their owners in the spring.

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“We’ve had some boats where...we’ve delivered them to the docks, and we can’t get them in because it’s too shallow right now,” said Woudenberg. “So they’ve had to dig it out or we’ve had to come back.”

He’s currently working with the DNR to dredge the marina to make it easier to get boats in and out.

A stone’s throw from the marina, Kathy Snyder has a cottage on Mullett Lake. She’s curious how the water levels will look this summer.

“It’s pretty shallow for a while, and if it’s going to be even shallower, then we might have to walk our boat out farther or things like that.”

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For now, it’s still too early to know the full impact shutting down the hydroelectric generation facility will have on water levels.

“Docks are made for the certain levels…so yeah, over time it could cause some problems. But for now, I think people are dealing with it,” said Olson.

Jack Woudenberg told us he’s working with the DNR on a plan to dredge the marina.

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