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March 18, 2019 1:27 pm

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Tower Marine Owner R.J. Peterson Moves Forward On His Plan To Dredge River

     A prominent community member and marina owner claims that despite an ongoing lawsuit against him by the City of Douglas over his dredging waste facility, he has secured dredging permits for some waterfront property owners and is moving forward with plans to dredge the harbor this upcoming summer.

     “We have 25 people that either have permits or are in the process of finalizing approvals (from the Army Corps of Engineers and the DEQ (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality),” said Tower Marine owner R.J. Peterson, adding he is currently talking with the Holland-based King Co. to do the dredge work.

     “This was never part of the original harbor authority plan,” said Peterson, referring to the Kalamazoo Lake Harbor Authority’s estimated $2.3 million phase one, emergency dredging proposal.

     That proposal calls for carving out three major channels in the river in strategic locations to create navigable waterways.

     While Peterson asserts he will dredge this summer, harbor authority representatives recently announced they expect to complete a final plan with funding options by summer and a detailed design for implementation by the end of year, but no dredging is scheduled.

     Asked who would pay for his dredging proposal for the summer, Peterson said, “The individual locations (landowners) along the lake.” 

     He said he and the engineer team he’ll be working with do not at this point know the total estimated cost of the project, but he did note that the dredging rate would run $25 per cubic yard.

     Asked how his project would, if at all, be linked to the harbor authority’s efforts, Peterson said, “Only to the extent we can work out an agreement and they can get the right permits; (then) they can use the temporary dredged spoils site (at Tower Marine). It could be a win-win for everyone.”

     That effort would require an extension of the existing dredge spoils site that is required to have its own federal, state and local permit approvals.

     As for the existing dredge spoils site, it provides for 150 cubic yards of dredged waste and is meant to be temporary, originally serving the purpose of storing the sediment from the dredging of a channel that made way for the Great Lakes steamship S.S. Keewatin to leave Douglas. Peterson said he wants to continue to use it for his future dredging plans.

     Referred to as the “volcano” by many locals and located along Blue Star Highway, down hill from St. Peters Catholic Church, the site has been the subject of controversy and is precisely what the city is suing the marina owner over.

     While Tower Marine’s existing facility is in compliance with state of Michigan regulations, it is not in adherence with local ordinances, argue Douglas City officials. 

     They say in 2012 Tower Marine failed to meet the conditions of a temporary site-plan approval, including the re-grading of the property and needed documentation showing a required phased approach.

     The city filed a brief in November asking the Allegan County District Court to order Peterson to comply or force him to remove the facility.

     In his defense, Peterson argued it was impossible to provide the city what it asked for to meet the requested site-plan requirements. 

     Nevertheless, he told Observer Newspapers on Tuesday, “The engineers (Tower Marine’s) are working on getting it.“The city has never had a workshop about the emergency needs of the harbor and the dredging facility,” said Peterson. 

     “We are in a crisis and there seems to be a reluctance against advancing forward.”

Tower Marine Owner R.J. Peterson Moves Forward On His Plan To Dredge River

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