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Plan To End Harsens Island Ferry Service Causes Worry

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CLAY TOWNSHIP (WWJ/AP) – A plan by the operator of the ferry to Lake St. Clair’s Harsens Island to end service is causing concern among residents who rely on it for year-round travel.

The Michigan Public Service Commission announced Tuesday that Champion’s Auto Ferry last month sent notification saying it planned to end ferry service in the future.  Exactly when was not clear.

David Byson, the company’s president and CEO, plans to retire. Ferry operators have said traffic is down and the business faces pressures from the cost of fuel, labor and insurance.

But Clay Township Supervisor Tom Kreuger says the commission, which regulates the ferry company, is in talks with the owner and won’t allow it to completely shut down.

“You just can’t close down, and leave people high and dry. So what he’s asking basically is for them to council on how to make a transition, what they require, and so forth,” Kreuger said.

“He could sell the business to somebody else. Pass it along to another family member to run. I mean that’s just me talking, or whatever else the MPSC would consider to be reasonable,” Kreuger  said. “Retiring and closing the ferry down is not really an option for him.”

The island is accessible by boat as well as a small airstrip. Kreuger, a 30-year resident of the island, said they’ve also been in talks with Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Maroun about a possible bridge to Harsens, but there’s so far been no movement on that.

A proposed plan to build a bridge awhile back never came to fruition.

Harsens Island is in St. Clair County’s Clay Township, about 30 miles east-northeast of Detroit. The Detroit Free Press reports the island has about 1,200 year-round residents and the summer population grows to about 5,000.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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