ST. JOSEPH — With water levels high and boating season kicking off, property owners along the St. Joseph River are asking boaters to slow down, for now.
St. Joseph resident Al DiBrito said he expects to lose as much as a foot of property along the riverbank this weekend alone. He said that in the 23 years he’s lived along the river, he has lost about 15 feet to erosion. But that’s not his only concern.
“My house is not in jeopardy. But the riverbank is eroding, and that’s an environmental and ecological issue,” DiBrito said. “Trees have fallen into the river, and that’s dangerous for boaters.”
A boater himself, DiBrito and about a half-dozen of his neighbors are distributing fliers and have signs available that say “High water, river erosion, please, no wake.” He said some people have already placed them on their property, facing the river, so boaters can see them.
“This is strictly voluntary,” he said.
To get an area designated as an official no wake zone that can be legally enforced takes years, DiBrito said.
When the river is high, man-made waves caused by boat wakes crash into the river bank and eat away at vegetation and the tree line. When the trees fall into the water, the bank erodes at an accelerated rate, he said.
“And the trees are a very important part of the ecosystem and for wildlife,” he added.
DiBrito said he wants to work with the St. Joseph River Yacht Club and city and township officials to help get the word out.
“I’m a boater myself. It’s not a problem when the river is down, but it’s up nearly three feet. This doesn’t have to be forever, but for now we’re asking boaters to voluntarily slow down,” he said. “When the water goes down, have fun.”