Grand Haven sends support for Lake Mich. car ferry

The SS Badger is under orders from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to stop dumping waste ash into the lake, and Grand Haven officials are hoping to add some muscle to the ferry's fight to stay in operation. "I think that it is a treasure and we should do what we can to support it,' Grand Haven City Councilman Bob Monetza said.
Alex Doty
Mar 15, 2012


The ferry releases more than 500 tons of coal ash from May to October, and operators say there’s no quick fix.

If the standoff between the EPA and the ferry line isn’t resolved, the Badger could be grounded.

“This is very important to Ludington and that whole area, and West Michigan,” Monetza said.

The Badger employs about 200 people during the boating season.

“They need something to survive,” Grand Haven Councilman Mike Fritz said of the Ludington community.

To help prevent a shutdown, the Grand Haven council recently lent its support to the Ludington community in the form of a letter. City officials wrote the EPA to support the effort to keep the Badger in operation via a short-term extension of its EPA operating permit while ash alternatives are considered.

“I have no idea what their plans are, but we need to give them that chance to survive,” Fritz said.

Ludington City Manager John Shay said he was happy Grand Haven stepped up to the plate to offer support.

Shay said the Badger has a $21 million economic impact to the Ludington community.

“This is a very, very important issue to us and we are hoping the EPA will provide an extension,” Shay said.

The Badger entered service in 1953. Most of the boats met a sad ending in scrapyards by the late 1980s. The Badger survived when an entrepreneur refurbished it for leisure travel.

Environmentalists say the contaminants add up over time. And supporters of a rival company say the Badger shouldn’t expect special treatment. 

“They’re putting almost 8,000 pounds of ash a day into Lake Michigan,” said Steve Warmington, mayor of Muskegon, a city 60 miles south where a diesel-powered ferryboat called the Lake Express is based.  “There’s no way in the world you can convince me that’s good for the lake.”

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



I love the Badger, but if our community feels that it is important to support it, I would rather see it come with donated dollars for a conversion than for the continuation of damage to our lake and environment.




Lake Michigan contains 1,300,000,000,000,000 gallons of water. We filter our fish tanks with charcoal. We filter water with charcoal. I think this is more than likely the EPA trying to bust the ferry in the chops. Perhaps the government is not getting a large enough piece of the pie? Is it better to have all those cars they haul across the lake drive and release the fumes into the air? Just food for thought.. and this is only my opinion, but I do not see the ferry as doing harm to our lake.


Charcoal is Carbon. Coal Ash contains arsenic, barium, beryllium, boron, cadmium, chromium, thallium, selenium, molybdenum and mercury. If this dumping had been going on for just a few years from 1 boat, it wouldn't be a problem and I'd agree with you. Unfortunately, we've been dumping coal ash into the Great Lakes watershed for over 100 years from every boat, train, and power plant located in and around our Great lake. If you were to hop on board the GVSU research vessel Angus, and take a sample of the soil at the mouth of the Grand River here in Grand Haven, you would find that there is a layer of mercury and arsenic that is about 9-13 inches thick. That stuff doesn't go away over night, and is just a small example of what is already in our lake. So, any more dumping of coal ash is BAD. Besides, the owners of the Ferry have had over 3 years to prepare and comply with the new EPA regulations, so it shouldn't come as a surprise.


1998: LMC owner Bob Manglitz discusses the options and costs to convert the SS Badger from coal burning. $5-7 million will convert the ship to either oil burning or diesel engines. Why are they still talking about this 14 years later? The only answer can be corporate greed. Obviously there are more profits in coal ash dumping.


newsblogger has a great point. The pollution from the cars going all the way around is probably, at best, only comparable to the pollution from the ferry.

I would rather see them give them a realistic time frame to make the switch. They need time to raise the money for the conversion to avoid disruption or an end to their service. They don't deserve permanent special treatment, but the Lake Express (one of the larger voices against the Badger) did receive government backed loans when they started up.

Have the Badger propose a plan, complete with a timeline and investors, and make them stick to it. Give them only the necessary time needed and not a day more. They'll find a way. But don't shut them down right when our state's economy is struggling to stay afloat.


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