Breakwater Lighting up for Safety
Written by Muskegon Chronicle   
Monday, 25 June 2007 05:12
Installation of safety lights along Muskegon's south breakwater went full speed ahead Friday, after the U.S. Coast Guard determined that such lights would not pose a hindrance to navigation and gave its OK.

"This is a really positive outcome for this project," said Arn Boezaart of the Community Foundation for Muskegon County. The foundation is administering a pier safety grant from Lou and Ann Eklund of Muskegon, and Boezaart chaired a special committee to oversee the effort.

Muskegon's south breakwater arm has been the scene of many boat crashes, drownings and near-drownings over the years. The plan is to install 12 solar-powered lights 150 feet apart along the outer breakwater as a means of warning nighttime boaters to steer clear.

To aid swimmers in distress, a detachable life ring will be affixed to each of the 10-foot light poles.

The third aspect of the pier safety project will see the installation of a 911 call box at the beach end of the breakwater, possibly by the Fourth of July weekend, Boezaart said.

The pier safety project was a joint effort by the community foundation, the city of Muskegon, the Muskegon County Sheriff's Marine Division, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard.

"It is noteworthy how quickly this came together," Boezaart said. "We had all the right people at the table to make this happen."

Once everything is in place, Boezaart said a ribbon-cutting ceremony acknowledging those involved would be scheduled early in August.

The Coast Guard's Aids to Navigation Team had been concerned that additional lights could be confusing to boaters and impede safe navigation in and out of Muskegon's outer harbor.

As a test, one of the lights was set up near the breakwater "elbow" early this month. It was adjusted to operate at 50 percent power, making it visible from 1.6 miles. Three more lights were added, and commercial shippers, as well as the Lake Express cross-lake service, were asked to evaluate.

"They said it didn't pose a problem with navigation ability," Boezaart said.

That was confirmed by Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Steve Lowe, commander of the Grand Haven sector office, which gave the all-clear to install the remaining lights.

"Based on what we heard back from shippers, it appears they'll be OK," he said Friday. "Once they're all up we'll take a look at it again, but they did not seem to have an impact on boater traffic."

The Coast Guard's stance came as welcome news to Sgt. Gary Berdinski of the sheriff's marine detail.

"This is super -- I'm really impressed," said Berdinski, who has been pushing for warning lights along the breakwater since covering his first boating accident there 23 years ago.

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