P.M. officials at odds with Tribe over launch site
Written by Ludington Daily News   
Saturday, 12 February 2005 03:33
Pere Marquette Township officials are at their wits? end over the situation that has arisen at the Pere Marquette Memorial boat launch. Several commercial fishing boats licensed by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians have moored more-or-less permanently at the end of homemade docks at the site.

?We have a boat launch there, and for whatever reason we now have about six ? it varies every day ? commercial fishing (boat crews) who have built their own docks and have taken over,? said P.M. Township Supervisor Gene Jorissen. ?My read of the treaty that they have, they are supposed to have a permit, and that is not a permitted activity, but I can?t get anybody to deal with it for me.?

Jorissen said he has dealt with conservation officers from the Little River Band, commercial fisheries enforcement personnel from the Michigan DNR, state Sen. Gerald Van Woerkom?s office, U.S. Senator Carl Levin?s office, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard, but has had no satisfaction in resolving the issue.

?There?s nothing they can do,? Jorissen said. ?Everybody says, I don?t know what we can do.?

Jorrisen said he believes the commercial fishermen?s actions are illegal based upon a section of the 1836 treaty between the federal government and the Chippewa and Ottawa people.

?I read the 1836 treaty and (part of it) deals with access,? Jorissen said. ?We are a unit of the State of Michigan and they need to get a permit. There are certain things they cannot do.?

Little River Band of Ottawa Indians spokesman Glenn Zaring said he believes the treaty Jorissen is referring to deals only with property owned by the state and federal governments.

?Our treaty is not with him,? Zaring said. ?Our treaty only applies to DNR sites. We don?t negotiate a treaty with townships in this instance. I think he missed some of the application of who is working with whom.?

Zaring said tribal officials have scheduled a meeting to discuss the issues with township officials.

But Zaring said the actions of the fishermen licensed by the tribe should not be viewed as actions sanctioned by the tribe.

?The tribal fishermen are independent contractors, that point seems to keep being missed,? Zaring said. ?We don?t control their actions. In their practice as their trade as commercial fishermen, they function independently.?

The problem could be partially alleviated later this year.

Tommy Battice, who owns the licenses used for several of the boats, announced in January his operations would move to Manistee because of ease of access and its proximity to where he hopes to set his nets. Other boats docked at the site operate under the licenses owned by Levi Stone.

Jorissen simply wants the site to be used for its intended purpose of launching and retrieving boats and vehicles used for ice fishing.

?No one seems to feel that they can get them to move,? Jorissen said. ?They take up squatters? rights there. They?re blocking the boat launch; they?re breaking the ice for the ice fishermen that like to go out there.?

Jorissen said in addition to phone calls placed to several officials, he?s also sent letters to State Rep. David Palsrok, R-Manistee, and U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland, but has not yet received a response.

?I?m at a loss, do I take it to circuit court, where do I take it?? Jorissen said.
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