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Shamrock Lake dredging project to bring back former

An excavator positioned on a barge will be used to remove silt from Shamrock Lake to deepen the water level and make the body of water navigable. Photo by Susan Field

Posted on October 11, 2021

Decades ago, Shamrock Lake in Clare was a popular destination for swimming, fishing and leisurely boating.

Decades ago, Shamrock Lake in Clare was a popular destination for swimming, fishing and leisurely boating.

A public beach at Shamrock Park was packed with people in the summer months, with a lifeguard on duty, swimming lessons and possibly even a concession stand..

A beach at Shamrock Park on Wilcox Parkway in Clare was once a popular swimming site, with lifeguards and swimming lessons. Photo courtesy of the city of Clare.

It’s been 20 years since Luke Potter started working for the city of Clare, and he remembers a time when the lake was filled with activity.

Potter, who is now director of public works, remembers dragging a York rake along the beach behind a tractor to groom the sand.

“A few used to water ski,” Potter said, adding that he barely sees boats any more because the water isn’t navigable.

Shamrock Lake, an impoundment with the Tobacco River flowing from the west and drifting to a dam at the east, has not been viable for recreation for many years.

In 1964, the average depth was six feet, with deeper holes on the east end.

Currently, the average is two feet.

The former beach at Shamrock Park is still visible but has not been used because of the lowering water levels. Photo by Susan Field

Potter, who is now director of public works, recently spoke of the sandy beach, which over the years returned to its natural state, cattails growing on the shoreline near a gentle slope that still shows a hint of a once sandy beach where people of all ages relaxed and kept cool in the heat.

A flood in 1986 brought so much silt into the lake that a new island formed at Shamrock Park.

Although it was never an all-sports lake, with a five mile per hour boat speed limit, Shamrock is little more than a glorified swamp today, with slightly deeper water near the dam, where people can at times still be seen fishing from rowboats.

As time and silt rendered Shamrock Lake nearly unusable, city officials often discussed how to remedy the problem, talking about different ways to dredge the silt, but there was never an option that was affordable.

“We used to dig out silt at three different locations along the river and where a creek from another dammed up lake that dumps into the north side,” Potter said.

Soon, as dictated by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, a project will begin that will take the lake back to its former glory.

Water levels near the dam at Shamrock Lake are deeper than the east side because the Tobacco River flows from the east, leaving silt deposits on the west end of the lake. Photo by Susan Field.

Emulating a dredging technique used by the city of Harbor Beach, workers are dredging the lake mechanically, a task that is estimated to take about five years and cost $1,241,250 – about $2 million less than what it would cost to remove the spoil hydraulically.

Lakefront property owners will be assessed half of the cost over a 20 year period, and this city will pay the rest, Potter said.

Using a floating barge measuring 24 feet wide and 48 feet long, and carrying an excavator, workers will remove the estimated 127,000 cubic yards of spoil.

Silt and debris will be placed into a 40-yard container, which will be dumped at a site that must be approved by MDEGL, Potter said.

Workers will use the excavator bucket to navigate the barge to and from shore.

A vast majority of waterfront property owners on the lake are happy that the city is taking action to transform the lake, Potter said.

Residents on the lake have been receptive to the project, Potter said.

“They’re very happy,” Potter said. “We’ve only had a couple of people complain.”

Clare City Manager Jeremy Howard is looking forward to the completion of the project.

I am so excited that the city of Clare has been able to begin the process of dredging Shamrock Lake,” Howard said. “This project has been years in the making and to finally have the barge in the water and be close to starting the removal of the material that has built up over decades is fantastic.

“It will be wonderful to have the lake back to a usable body of water where both the lake owners and the citizens of Clare can swim, boat, fish and recreate.”


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