Saugatuck Awarded New Federal Dredging Funding
The Kalamazoo River in the along the City of Saugatuck will be getting a slice of the $19 million in federal Hurricane Sandy recovery funding for Great Lakes’ harbors, the office of U.S. Sen. Carl Levin announced Wednesday.
The new federal pot of money is slated to go towards restoration and repairs in the Great Lakes, which includes 10 harbors, including six in Michigan from Muskegon to New Buffalo.
“This is wonderful news for our community,” said Felicia Fairchild, executive director of the Saugatuck –Douglas Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Saugatuck is expected to get some $370,000 of the $19 million available to fund improvement work - namely dredging - in the Kalamazoo River from Lake Michigan to Coral Cables which U.S. officials call a “federally authorized channel.”
However, the money is not for work in the actual harbor, which the Kalamazoo Lake Harbor Authority is seeking to dredge by raising $2 million.
“I am not surprised (about the hurricane relief funding). We put in a request,” said Tom O’Bryan of the Grand Haven office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
O’Bryan said that despite the storm mostly ravaging the East Coast, it also impacted the Great Lakes’ region.
“There were 65 miles-per-hour sustained winds and that caused shoaling in the harbors,” O’Bryan said of the navigational hazards resulting from the storm.
The commitment from Jo-Ellen Darcy, the assistant secretary of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for public works, came in response to a question from Levin at a Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs hearing.
“Secretary Darcy’s commitment is a significant step forward in addressing this monster storm’s impact on the Great Lakes,” Levin said.
“I and other Great Lakes state legislators fought hard to make the Great Lakes a priority, especially because we’re already coping with historic low water levels and their impact on Great Lakes navigation.”
The $370,000 federal Sandy money Saugatuck is anticipating getting is separate from and in addition to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s recent announcement that Saugatuck-Douglas has now been added to the list of recreational harbor communities to get some of the $21 million state funds earmarked for emergency dredging for Michigan harbors. Saugatuck-Douglas was not in the list previously.
“This (the total earmarked funds) certainly paves the way for the cruise ship Yorktown to visit our community without any difficulty this summer,” said Fairchild.
Above average precipitation helped boost water levels in Lake Michigan in February to 2 inches above the record-low level in January. It’s still about 2 feet below the normal levels for the month.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also has announced they have already contracted with the King Co. of Holland to start dredging some 40,000 cubic yards of material from the Kalamazoo River channel starting in May.
The recent windfall of state and federal dollars to help the Saugatuck-Douglas area is welcome news for boaters, members of the local Harbor Authority and local marina owner R.J. Peterson who has long led the fight for finding a way to pay for the needed dredging work.