2013-04-04 / Front Page

Dredging Projects Receive Funding

Six Local Sites To Get Emergency Help
By Martha Stuit


At the St. Ignace Marina, the railroad tie (left) is where the water was at the beginning of last summer, and the stake (right of the tie) is where the water had receded to by October 18. Now, the water is even lower. At the St. Ignace Marina, the railroad tie (left) is where the water was at the beginning of last summer, and the stake (right of the tie) is where the water had receded to by October 18. Now, the water is even lower. Emergency funding for dredging 58 marinas around the state will help communities address water levels that are at record lows. Sites in Cedarville, Hessel, Mackinac Island, Naubinway, St. Ignace, and Mackinaw City are included. The money will assist with preparing the harbors with the highest needs in time for summer use. Dredging marinas to make them functional will sustain boating and prevent any revenue losses from unusable slips or decreased tourism. Governor Rick Snyder signed the package of bills regarding dredging into law with immediate effect last Wednesday, March 27.

Forty-nine harbors were on an original list, and nine more were added when the DNR learned there would be leftover money in the funding of nearly $21 million, said Ronald Olson, Chief of DNR Parks and Recreation. Dredging expenses are estimated for the 49 locations, but the amounts for the other harbors are not yet announced.


Dock A is the one closest to the shore and Huron Boardwalk at St. Ignace Marina. It is a floating dock. The water is so low that the guides (vertical pipes pictured), allowing the dock to move with the water, are resting on the bottom of the lake (marked by the pipe in the water). The depth at the end of Dock A is around two and a half feet. Dredging would bring the depth to eight feet, meaning the marina could rent slips there. Dock A is the one closest to the shore and Huron Boardwalk at St. Ignace Marina. It is a floating dock. The water is so low that the guides (vertical pipes pictured), allowing the dock to move with the water, are resting on the bottom of the lake (marked by the pipe in the water). The depth at the end of Dock A is around two and a half feet. Dredging would bring the depth to eight feet, meaning the marina could rent slips there. None of the marinas are in Chippewa County. Funding will also be awarded to Lower Peninsula marinas, including Mackinaw City, Alpena, Beaver Island, Cheboygan, Harbor Springs, Petoskey, Rogers City, and Traverse City.

At St. Ignace, dredging will open slips that the marina could not use last year owing to low water, said City Manager Les Therrian.


Above: St. Ignace Marina (pictured with State Street in the background) is still frozen, but the ice is breaking up. The City of St. Ignace is one of 58 locations around Michigan slated to receive emergency dredging aid from the state. The dredging will be crucial for full use of the facility this summer, and the goal is to complete the work before boating season. Otherwise, some slips will be unusable. Opening day is May 25. Above: St. Ignace Marina (pictured with State Street in the background) is still frozen, but the ice is breaking up. The City of St. Ignace is one of 58 locations around Michigan slated to receive emergency dredging aid from the state. The dredging will be crucial for full use of the facility this summer, and the goal is to complete the work before boating season. Otherwise, some slips will be unusable. Opening day is May 25. Since last summer, “We have lost some of the slips [for] the bigger boats,” he said. “It is a major issue losing all this water.”

He estimated that being unable to use 10% to 15% of the slips, owing to low water, could result in a $20,000 decrease in revenue. Making those slips available through dredging will prevent the economic loss.

Grants for marinas around the state will range from $3,150 to more than $2 million, based on the volume of dredging needed.


St. Ignace Marina Director Tim Matelski stands at the end of Dock A, where the water is only 2.5 feet deep at the southwest edge of the marina. Boats cannot rent slips there, owing to the low water, but dredging would enable boats to use those spots. Without dredging, the marina would lose 10% to 15% of its slips and $20,000 in revenue, estimated City Manager Les Therrian. St. Ignace Marina Director Tim Matelski stands at the end of Dock A, where the water is only 2.5 feet deep at the southwest edge of the marina. Boats cannot rent slips there, owing to the low water, but dredging would enable boats to use those spots. Without dredging, the marina would lose 10% to 15% of its slips and $20,000 in revenue, estimated City Manager Les Therrian. The first step at St. Ignace will be engineering assessments, which cannot begin until the money is allocated to the city. Mr. Therrian said he hopes the state will distribute at least 25% of the money in early April to begin the engineering work. The amount for St. Ignace has not been announced yet, but the city requested $202,000, Marina Director Tim Matelski said.

As long as the funding comes through, and the dredging happens, “We can put more boats in there, which we were not able to do last year,” said Mr. Matelski.

Slips on Dock A, which is the one closest to shore, as well as the area around the fuel dock, need dredging, he explained. Dock A is a floating dock, but the water is only two and a half feet deep at the end, so it is resting on the bottom now. Last September, the dock could not accommodate sailboats.

“We need it,” Mr. Matelski said about the emergency money.

He and city engineer Brian Olsen sounded the bottom of the marina at the end of February to determine depths and where the dredging is needed.

Mr. Therrian said he is uncertain whether the city will be required to seek bids to hire a company for the project. Completing the dredging quickly is the goal, and bidding could slow down the process, he said. Also, the city is opting to organize the project. The other option is allowing the state to find contractors and complete the dredging.

Securing a company to do the dredging as soon as the state funding is available will be important so that the marina can be used by the opening day, May 25.

“Our summer season is coming up on us pretty fast,” Mr. Therrian said.

The dredging aid has been in the works in Lansing since the state surveyed harbors in December and January, and Governor Snyder requested dredging funds in his February budget recommendation. Ensuring access to waterways to encourage tourism and protect the economy are the goals. As a result, the legislation moved quickly to the governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 233, now Public Act 9 of 2013, also included funding for land acquisitions, recreational development projects, veteran services, and other appropriations.

Two sources will provide almost $21 million of dredging funding. Michigan’s general fund will contribute $11.5 million and Michigan State Waterways Fund will reallocate $9.64 million. The money will be redirected from other boating improvement projects around the state, and those projects will be revisited in coming years, including work slated for the Cedarville and Naubinway marinas in Mackinac County.

Four other bills will assist communities with dredging.

One bill, now Public Act 10, offers low-interest loans for private marinas on the Great Lakes.

Three of the bills help with permitting. The fee for removing sand (at least 10,000 cubic yards of sediment that is at least 90% sand) will drop from either $1,500 or $2,000 to $50, according to Public Acts 11 and 13.

The reduced fee “is quite a bit more affordable for communities,” said Jim Goodheart of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Likewise, for emergency conditions including dredging, Public Act 12 allows the DEQ to issue permits before the required 20-day public notice period has been completed. Pending DEQ approval, communities will be able to start dredging sooner, to prepare for those eager summer boaters.

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