State Says Saugatuck Township Needs To Join Local Harbor Authority To Qualify For MI Grants/Funding
“The time is really now” for Saugatuck Township to formally and officially join the Kalamazoo Lake Harbor Authority (KLHA), announced Saugatuck Township Liaison Jon Helmrich last week at the township’s board meeting.
Helmrich was referring to the message coming from State of Michigan officials: the township needs to join the cities of Saugatuck and Douglas as a member of the authority if the community is to be eligible for most state and federal harbor maintenance and improvement grants.
At stake is not only missing out on possible grants for dredging and improvements of the local harbor, but the work the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has done up to this point at no cost to the community: periodically dredging silt from the Kalamazoo River’s mouth to upstream at the section in front of Coral Gables in Saugatuck, said Helmrich.
Helmrich said he learned of this issue from Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) representatives at their January 19th presentation before the authority board.
“We have always taken for granted the Army Corps of Engineers is going to be there for the harbor. We need to heed that issue,” Helmrich said of the possible ramifications if the Tri-Community doesn’t join under one body to advocate for such benefits.
To address the issue, the authority is creating a special sub-committee to discuss township membership and ask the questions:
What degree of membership and participation? What does it mean in terms of monetary contribution? What will be the operational procedures to come up with a formal proposal?
Because the Kalamazoo River channel’s mouth is within the township’s borders, the authority needs the township as a member in order to have that portion of the navigational water be an integral pat of the authority’s jurisdiction, DNR reps told KLHA board members.
Other harbor authority representatives have also expressed urgency.
“What I heard loud and clear (from State of Michigan officials) is that money (grants) will be easier to obtain if there was a real contribution from the township, City of Saugatuck, and the City of Douglas,” Douglas City Council Member Lisa Greenwood announced last week during Monday’s council meeting.
To date, township officials have opted out of membership in the authority since its formation in 2011, citing the importance of protecting taxpayer dollars that would be—if the township was a member—allocated to the authority’s efforts.
Township officials also cited the need for more information about the goals and strategies of the authority.
The KLHA decided to move ahead without the township to negotiate an agreement to form the authority. The township continues to be involved in meetings and planning stages, but has no voting powers. Nevertheless, the authority left the door open for the township to join in the future.
The engineering firm JJR prepared a study in 2006 that estimated a comprehensive dredging effort could cost as much as $45 million.