LUDINGTON, Mich. (AP) - The S.S. Badger, the nationís last operating
coal-fired ferryboat, kicked off its sailing season Monday while awaiting
word on a proposed deal with the government over releasing waste ash into
A crowd was on hand at a dock in the Badgerís home port of Ludington as the
410-foot vessel embarked for Manitowoc, Wis. The Badger makes daily round
trips between the two cities from May to October, providing a shortcut for
pleasure seekers and cargo haulers wanting to cross the lake while avoiding
lengthy drives through Chicago or Michiganís Upper Peninsula.
Another cross-lake ferry service, the Lake Express, resumed service over the
weekend between Milwaukee and Muskegon, Mich.
About 100 passengers made the initial crossing on the Badger, which started
its season several weeks earlier than usual to accommodate trucks carrying
wind turbine parts from Wisconsin to a wind farm being constructed in
Michigan, the Ludington Daily News reported.
ďItís an economical way to travel and save wear and tear on my vehicle and
for the experience - I enjoy the lake,Ē Ryan Koenigs of Marinette, Wis.,
said before the ship took off from Ludington.
A few months ago, some feared the Badger might be grounded for good. The
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had given Lake Michigan Carferry, which
operates the vessel, until last December to stop discharging ash into the
lake. Coal ash contains low concentrations of arsenic, mercury and other
heavy metals, although it is not classified as hazardous.
The Badger releases more than 500 tons of ash during a typical season.
Under the agreement announced in March, the ferry can continue releasing the
ash for two more years while developing a system for retaining it on board
while sailing, then depositing it on land.
A federal judge must approve the deal before it takes effect. A 30-day
period for public comment drew 7,000 responses. The U.S. Department of
Justice could suggest changes or ask the court to accept it as written.
Opponents contend the government has been too lenient with the ferry company
and should insist that the ash discharges stop immediately. Supporters say
the Badger is a pillar of the Ludington tourist economy and that the ash
does little if any environmental harm.