Chris Schropp, a civil engineer for the corps, said Grand Haven would be dredged next year.
“It will be from the entrance to the harbor upriver," he said.
The Corps of Engineers' 2013 budget includes $1.35 million for dredging the Grand Haven harbor.
That's nearly twice as much as the corps has allocated in the recent past. An average of $762,000 was spent on harbor maintenance in Grand Haven in the past three years.
Schropp said Grand Haven's port would continue to be funded for dredging into at least the near future. This is because the city falls above the threshold of 1 million tons of cargo going through the port each year, he said.
Keeping the port open is becoming difficult as water levels drop. Experts say each inch that Lake Michigan's level declines slashes between 50 and 270 tons from the already deflated totals that can be shipped.
The Grand Haven port is one place where the effects of lower water levels can be seen. The port sees regular shipments of construction aggregates and coal for the city’s power plant.
Grand Haven Board of Light & Power spokeswoman Renee Molyneux said keeping the harbor open to freighter traffic is important. “That would be critical to our providing power to the community,” she said.
Molyneux said finding another way to ship coal to the island would be difficult. There's no rail line to the plant. She said they could ship it to another port and truck it in, or even dredge the port themselves — but that would increase the cost to produce electricity, and thus customers would see higher power bills.
There's trouble ahead for communities with annual shipping loads below 1 million tons.
“Holland does not (fall above 1 million), so their funding will probably get cut,” Schropp said.
Cargo moving through deep-draft ports is taxed and the receipts are deposited in the federal Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which has a surplus of nearly $7 billion. Schropp said work is under way by some members of Congress to free up some of the trust fund money.
A group of Great Lakes senators — including Michigan Democrats Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow — have written the Corps of Engineers asking that the Great Lakes receive a portion of the $2.4 billion the agency received from the Continuing Appropriations Resolution for Fiscal Year 2013.
“We urge you to direct a significant portion of these funds to Great Lakes navigation projects to help ensure that goods can be transported efficiently, which is critical to our economic recovery and job creation,” the letter stated.
Price of Grand Haven harbor maintenance: