High water makes safety top priority

Jordan Beck | Daily Press High water levels are seen at Escanaba’s municipal dock last week. Local law enforcement has reminded residents of and visitors to Delta County of the importance of keeping safety in mind while out on the water.

ESCANABA — Local law enforcement is reminding residents of and visitors to Delta County of the importance of keeping safety in mind while out on the water.

Delta County Sheriff’s Department Deputy John Smith — who is part of the office’s maritime patrol — said incidents on the water have been relatively common this summer.

“On the warm days, it’s been very busy — I think busier than expected, actually,” he said.

This could be due in part to the current popularity of outdoor recreation among people in the area.

“I think people are wanting to get out and get some recreation,” Smith said.

He noted comparing the summer of 2020 to other summers in terms of water-related incidents would be premature at this time.

“It’s still early. Most of our calls come during the early fishing season and then later in the summer,” Smith said.

Water levels on Lake Michigan have been extremely high this year. According to the Army Corps of Engineers, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron broke their water records in April. The new records for these lakes were 13.4 inches higher than last spring’s water level and nearly three inches higher than a record set in 1986.

“They are some of the highest water levels I can ever recall seeing,” Smith said.

Smith noted that incidents the maritime patrol has responded to are likely not directly tied to these water levels. However, the water levels have had an impact on local shorelines.

“We’re seeing a lot of erosion and beach loss by homeowners along the lakes,” he said.

They have also made it possible for people to get to places they normally could not get to on the water, Smith said.

“Boaters have been able to access areas they haven’t been able to access for years,” he said.

Wherever people planning to head out on the water choose to go, Smith said there are some basic safety tips they should keep in mind. Before setting sail, boaters should let other people know they are leaving and tell them where they plan to travel.

“If we have to go search for them, (then) we know where to start,” he said.

People going boating this summer should also take time to ensure they have the supplies and equipment they will need.

“Make sure that (you) have a life jacket for every person on board,” Smith said.

They should also have a cell phone or marine radio.

Smith said the sheriff’s office is providing a free service to local boaters who want to confirm they are not missing anything they need.

“We do offer courtesy marine safety vessel checks,” he said.

To schedule a check, call the sheriff’s office at 906-


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