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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

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Jack Culley keeps the Manitowoc Marina clean. © Robert Queen

August 2002

Inside one marina

Bringing pollution prevention
to Wisconsin's maritime capitol.

Natasha Kassulke

Jack Culley encourages marina customers to keep the environment clean.

© Robert Queen


Jack Culley, general manager of the Manitowoc Marina and president of S.I. Marina Management (Sailboats Inc.), knows the routine.

Every spring he watches sailors and power boaters at his marina on Lake Michigan, work so that their yachts are sea – and sight – worthy. In the fall they prepare to put their boats away.

Year-round, Culley and staff are there to see that environmentally sound methods are used for maintenance and operation are used.

The bottom line: The Manitowoc Marina does not welcome polluters.

"Clean water and a clean environment are essential to good boating and the marina industry," Culley contends.

"We are not just a place to anchor your boat," Culley says. "We have about 200 boats stored here and we do about 80 percent of the maintenance on them."

His marina offers 235 wet slips (24 to 100-feet), indoor and outdoor storage, mechanical, electronic, rigging, structural repairs, refinishing services and fuel sales.

The marina, which opened in 1985 and is in its second year of a new 20-year lease with the City of Manitowoc, is located within walking distance of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum. It meets the six-mileLakeshores Mariner's Trail.

Where Culley's office sits was once water. The area was landfilled to build a marina facility. As predicted, the marina brought in boaters from near and far. Half of Culley's customers reside outside the county. Other marina customers include about 10 fishing charter boats.

Culley also considers the City of Manitowoc an important business partner and works closely with the Public Works Director and harbormaster to plan marina operations.

Manitowoc has a rich maritime heritage. During World War II, the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company built submarines for the war effort. Today, Manitowoc is the sole Wisconsin port for the SS Badger (a 410-foot passenger vessel/car ferry that crosses Lake Michigan), and is home to the Burger Boat Company, a premier builder of custom mega-yachts.

Indians called Manitowoc "Mundeowk, Home of the Good Spirit," because of the beautiful harbors and rivers. /p>

Culley wants it to stay that way. His commitment to environmental protection is expressed in the marina mission: "Provide the boating community with a personalized, professional and dependable service, in an environmentally clean and inviting maritime atmosphere."

Culley believes his customers appreciate the environmental attention.

The marina staff encourages boat owners to let them do the "dirty" work.

The marina's stormwater pollution prevention plan requires that all boat sanding be done in designated areas where residue can be collected. Culley insists on using dustless sanders or professional grade sanders with dust collection capability. The marina rents these sanders at the ship store.

"We use the lowest VOC paint that we can," Culley says. "We use paint that dries almost instantly so fumes are limited."

The marina provides dumpsters for used paint cans, thinners and brushes so that they are properly disposed or recycled.

Much boat maintenance is done inside.

"It's easier to control the environment when the boat is inside," Culley says. "We have a ventilation system. Painting is done before the boat goes into the water."

The $7 million Manitowoc Marina facility houses a new 24,000-square foot heated winter storage building.

"There's a waiting list for the storage building," Culley says.

Storing a boat inside protects it from ultraviolet radiation, keeps it dry and extends the paint job and hull life. The storage facility contains "green" building features – skylighting and insulation.

The marina also sells fuel, but fueling at slips is prohibited. Tanks are filled at the fuel dock where there are environmental controls. Fueling dock staff use oil absorbent pads around the nozzle to catch spills, and a no-spill container with suction cups fitted over the fuel tank vent to capture fuel "upchuck."

The marina houses two 12,000-gallon underground fuel tanks connected to the fueling station by lines that run underground, then within the dock. These are fitted with leak detectors and tested annually. If a line broke, the marina has enough boom material to encircle the spill or close off the harbor entrance.

The marina also offers a tank where used motor oil and diesel fuel is collected and recycled offsite. Used oil filters are collected for disposal.

Overboard dumping or discharge of oil is not allowed. The marina requires that all bilges have oil absorption pads and that engines are maintained to prevent oil and fuel leaks and ensure maximum fuel efficiency.

Starting a winterized engine in the water or parking lot, which allows antifreeze to run off into marina waters is not permitted outside of designated areas. The marina requires that antifreeze be collected and disposed of. The marina also collects used batteries and contracts to have them properly recycled.

When boats are hauled out of the water for storage, algae growth is removed using a high-pressure spray. Marina staff builds a hay bale berm to capture algae and paint debris released during washing.

Cleaning a boat bottom is not allowed in the parking lot, since the waste could run into the marina waters. There is a designated boat cleaning area near the launch well and boaters are asked to avoid scrubbing their boat bottom while in the water.

Fish cleaning is not permitted in the marina, except at the designated fish cleaning station where there is a grinder/disposal unit for fish entrails. The station is well utilized and free to the public.

At Manitowoc Marina, the boat sewage management rules are simple: No overboard discharge of any sewage is allowed. Instead, customers use the shoreside restrooms and pumpout service (free to seasonal dock customers; there is a charge to visiting boaters). The parking lot houses an RV pumpout station, offered for free to the public.

Formaldehyde chemical additives to holding tanks are banned and Porta-Potties must be emptied into the designated dump station.

Culley also requires that clients use the trash and recycling containers provided.

Boats within the basin are required to run "slow now wake" with other boaters and to preserve the shoreline. A green space along the docks heightens aesthetics and helps control stormwater runoff from the parking lot.

The marina ship store sells environmentally friendly products.

But Culley says that these environmental initiatives – especially waste disposal – come at a price. As a business, he must pass that cost along to customers and does so through an environmental remediation fee. Dockage rates are subject to a 2 1/2 percent environmental fee while storage rates are subject to a one percent fee. The fee hasn't hurt his occupancy rate.

"Our customers notice and seem to appreciate the added environmental services we provide and are willing to pay for it," Culley says.

"All boaters have to realize that the environment that they are enjoying now is precious and something to preserve for future generations and they have a role in that."

Natasha Kassulke is Associate Editor of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.