Madeline Island rations propane; ice road prevents delivery

By KBJR News 1

January 30, 2014 Updated Jan 30, 2014 at 11:34 PM CDT

La Pointe, WI (NNCNOW.com) ---The propane shortage has left much of Wisconsin paying more for heat, but a town on Madeline Island is turning down the thermostat as they prepare to conserve.

If you want to reach the island from the mainland, you can either take a sled or drive, but all who wish go to or from the island, must cross a mile of lake superior ice.

The ice road that carries people across Lake Superior from Bayfield, Wisconsin to Madeline Island may be thick enough ice to allow for small cars and trucks to cross, it's not thick enough to carry propane.

The tankers that carry the propane to the town of La Pointe on Madeline Island wouldn't make it over the ice and normally get to the island by ferry. The town stocks up before the ferries stop running but this winter has been a little harsher and the town is finding itself in a position to conserve its resources.

"We turned our thermostat way down to try to conserve for the rest of the year, but we need it. We're just trying to conserve on it because we're not getting more propane out to the island." Said La Pointe Fire Chief, Rick Reichkitzer.

The island has about 850 buildings that are mostly seasonal visitor homes while a large majority of the 250 year round buildings use propane. Some summertime residents have told town administrators and caretakers to turn their heat down in their absence and if needed, use the propane in their tanks.

"So there are 50 houses out there we could go siphon the gas out of. Measure it, be polite, call them first, then buy their gas and just replace it so there is a reserve there." Said Madeline Island Resident, Tom Nelson.

The town administrator, Pete Clark, says that they have worked and will continue to work closely with propane suppliers.

"We set aside capitalism and we start speaking with our suppliers and say how much do you have, howl long do you think it can last, what do we have to do to insure we stretch out that supply." Said Town Administrator, Pete Clark.

Clark also says that people are coming together to keep the town warm and they will do whatever it takes to keep families from the cold.

"We'll work out of one office if we need to, whatever it takes to insure we've got the kinds of resources to support our population, to make sure our families are taken care of." Said Clark.

The town will be able to receive propane as soon as the ice thaws and the ferry can carry vehicles to the island, but until then, many are hoping old man winter backs off just a little bit.

"If the winter keeps hanging on like this, we'll be wondering come spring." Said Reichkitzer.

The population of Madeline Island is about 265 in the winter time and grows to about 3500 in the summer.

Bryce Henry