High water levels disrupt South Haven bridge

Southwest Michigan

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — Along the Black River near Lake Michigan in South Haven, evidence of high water levels isn’t hard to find.

Several streets along the river are flooded — recent rain only made the problem worse.

Perhaps no one watches the rising waters more closely than George Musser.

Every half hour, he opens the Dyckman Avenue Bascule Bridge, a drawbridge in the heart of town.

He hasn’t seen the river this high since he started tending the bridge.

“In 8 years I’ve been here, no — not this high,” Musser said.

There’s a sign at the base of the bridge warning of the potential dangers, but the water level is so high right now that the top word is almost entirely covered.

“The clearance (under) the bridge now is… we’re around 7 feet,” said Ron Dotson, public works operations manager.

That’s several feet fewer than normal, which means smaller boats that used to pass right under must wait until the bridge is up.

That will lead to more boat congestion at the bridge and it will be open longer — meaning more backups on the street above.

On busy boating days, Dotson is expecting worse traffic backups than they’ve seen in years. 

“Fourth of July … could be chaos,” he said.

The city says the law gives boaters the right of way — so Dotson is asking drivers to be patient.

“You’re going to have to be ready for (backups),” Dotson said of people visiting on weekends or holidays. “You’ve got to understand that this bridge has to rise — it has to go down. This is the only crossing that we have to get to the north side.”

He’s hoping water levels will soon start to go back down — for more reasons than just to help move along traffic.

“Everything, our hydraulics to this bridge are underneath the bridge on a platform. And the water levels are so high now if that water continues to rise, then that just creates another issue we have to deal with,” he explained.

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