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April 19, 2018 5:18 pm

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Saugatuck Township Needs To Join Kalamazoo Lake Harbor Authority For Area To Qualify For State Grants & Loans

     Having a public marina is one approach the community can take to improve its chances for coveted state and federal funding, but so is having Saugatuck Township become a full-fledged member of the Kalamazoo Lake Harbor Authority (KLHA).
        If and when the township officially joins KLHA, the contiguous area that makes up the Kalamazoo River in the Saugatuck area will be represented under the authority (at this point only the cities of Saugatuck and Douglas are members of that body).
        This is what Saugatuck City Mayor Pro-Tem Ken Trester, chair of the harbor authority, announced at last week’s council meeting about the recurring message coming from State of Michigan officials.
        The topics are now being addressed by the authority and its two members, with Douglas, in particular, now proposing a public marina at Wade’s Bayou.
        The authority recently formed a special sub-committee to provide recommendations and draft terms regarding proposed Saugatuck Township harbor authority membership.    
        Trester provided the Saugatuck City Council his report on the authority’s workshop session two weeks ago with engineering firm Edgewater Resources, various state of Michigan regulatory agency representatives and county officials to discuss sediment management strategies for the Kalamazoo Harbor.    
        “The Kalamazoo Harbor is not classified as a recreational harbor because there is no public marina here,” said Trester about one component, among others, that State of Michigan officials look at when awarding grants to harbors.
        However, the actual grant application process is more nuanced than that, according to state officials.    “We don’t classify a harbor as recreational when we evaluate an application; we look at a variety of things and consider all those together,” Paul Petersen, head of the Waterway Grant Program of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, told The Local Observer  last week.
        “What we really focus on is recreational boating—we look at boating access sites, marina facilities, harbors that provide amenities for recreational boating as opposed to commerce ventures. Is the community addressing an unmet transient need?”
        All of those features must be public, he added.
        There is money currently available through the Waterway Grant Program, but not a lot to go around for the numerous harbor improvement proposals throughout the state: there’s only $350,000 total available for this fiscal year, according to Petersen.    
        At a current deadlock with R.J. Peterson over the proposal to purchase his marina for public ownership (discussions have been on and off since 2010 with the two sides so far unable to reach any deal), Douglas officials are studying other options for a public marina.
        They are hoping a public marina will enhance the appeal of the city and bring visitors to its downtown shopping district, while also improving the opportunities for obtaining grant money and jive well with the ongoing efforts of the harbor authority.
        One option is to purchase the $1.3 million, 15-boat-slip Point Pleasant private marina, located east of the Blue Star Highway Bridge.      However, a better option— engineer Edgewater has advised and city officials have concurred— is a floating marina at the east end of Center Street at Wade’s Bayou because the city already owns that property and would not need to expend funds on a property purchase.
        The proposed Wade’s Bayou marina entails dredging, with a total completed project cost estimated at $2.3 million. However, the city could do the first phase at $200,000 or less, according to Edgewater.
        As for uniting the Tri-Community (Saugatuck, Douglas, and Saugatuck Township) under the auspices of the harbor authority, it will not only bolster grant opportunities, but may also reduce the possible risk of losing the free dredging of the mouth of the Kalamazoo River currently being done by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
        The Corps of Engineers dredges the mouth of the river every three to four years (the next dredging may have to wait until  2018), state officials have informed authority representatives.

Saugatuck Township Needs To Join Kalamazoo Lake Harbor Authority For Area To Qualify For State Grants & Loans

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