Dredging for dollars

Alex Doty • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:18 AM

On Tuesday, City Council approved sending a resolution to Washington legislators and port communities on both sides of Lake Michigan, indicating that it was important to keep Great Lakes harbors dredged using money from the trust fund.

“There are certain things we expect our federal government to do, and protecting our watersheds is one of them,” Councilman Bob Monetza said.

According to the resolution, Grand Haven’s harbor provides $60 million of direct economic impact to the area, contributing to the more than $5 billion generated from all Great Lakes harbors.

“If this type of work wasn’t done, (water-based industry) wouldn’t be able to do their jobs,” Janson said.

The resolution also states that the harbor allows Grand Haven to receive 1.5 million tons of sand, gravel and coal annually; it directly affects community employment with the 3,500 jobs related to the port, boating and tourism; and there is an indirect impact of 227,000 shipping and 60,000 boating jobs within the region.

Mayor Geri McCaleb said from delivering coal to the power plant on Harbor Island to aggregates at the docks in Ferrysburg, it was important to keep things open for commercial and recreational traffic.

“It is very important to us to have those dredged,” she said.

According to Grand Haven officials, the Grand Haven harbor is going to be dredged this year; however, it is the only commercial harbor on the east side of Lake Michigan to be dredged.

Last month, $100,000 in emergency funding was allocated for an emergency dredging project in St. Joseph.

In addition to lobbying for funding to be allocated for dredging, officials are pushing for money to be set aside for pier and revetment rebuilding projects.

“It’s an uphill battle, so we threw our hat in the ring,” City Manager Pat McGinnis said.

According to McGinnis, the dredging issue isn’t exclusive to Grand Haven. He said it’s taking place in other harbors across the state — such as Pentwater, St. Joseph and Saugatuck — where recreational boaters are now finding it difficult to get in and out of the ports.

“Soon, you won’t be able to use these areas for recreational boating either,” McGinnis said.

Additionally, McGinnis said the issue should be funded from the federal government since much of the sediment is coming from developed areas along the Grand River from outside of Grand Haven.

“A gigantic portion is coming from upstream,” he said. “All of these sediments wash out and fill in our harbors.”

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