Harbor Plan Must Deal With Multi-Faceted Issues & Mutual Agreement Is Key To Success
“What is the community’s vision for the harbor?” asked Edgewater Resources President Gregory Weykamp referring to the key question for his engineering firm as it readies to do a long-term plan for the Kalamazoo Harbor.
Weykamp gave a presentation about the proposal to the Saugatuck City Council at its Monday night meeting.
The St. Joseph-based engineering/consulting firm was selected to do the long-term plan among five different firms the Kalamazoo Harbor Authority Board looked at.
“The correct answer for Douglas is not going to be the correct answer for Saugatuck. There is no cookie-cutter solution that fits both,” said Weykamp. “Everybody needs to buy into this to move forward or it will be going in circles.”
The plan calls for, in chronological order, establishing a community-supported vision for the future; a consensus with permitting agencies; finding the most cost-effective strategy; and selecting from funding alternatives.
Douglas approved $12,880 for the plan earlier this year; Saugatuck is expected to follow suit. At present, the cities have a total of $100,000 budgeted (half each) for harbor improvements.
Due to the current physical constraints of the Kalamazoo Watershed, the deposition of sediment into the harbor will continue to occur and eventually reduce the harbor to a narrow river, according to a study by University of Michigan professor Guy Meadows, and referenced by Weykamp in his presentation.
The first priority is to engage the community first and let the community choose what is the best solution, said Weykamp, indicating the process will involve several public meetings and workshops.
“Anything we do has the potential to visually impact the harbor,” he said.
One solution, he noted, is channelization, the creation of a dedicated river course to convey the flow out into the lake. Another answer could be placing sediment traps upstream.
“Both of these approaches have pros and cons,” said Weykamp, adding that in either case, any plan has to be an “economically viable plan.”
Funding sources could include, among others, a special assessment district, a community-wide special assessment, TIF (tax increment financing), and/or slip fees.
Weykamp strongly recommends against slip fees.
“It creates a lot of animosity; it’s not just the boaters that benefit. It misses the point. All of these impacts benefit the entire community, not just special groups.”
The next step requires the harbor authority to request the funding to proceed with Edgewater, said Saugatuck City Manager Kirk Harrier.
However, he added, “The (Saugatuck City) council may feel more comfortable contracting directly with the firm.”