By Scott Sullivan
Beachgoers can’t miss the offshore barges and pipes spreading sand newly dredged from the Kalamazoo River channel onto Oval Beach.
The King Co., hired as contractor by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the $375,000 project, is deepening the federal channel from Coral Gables to the river mouth to 16 feet below mean lake levels.
With Lake Michigan currently three feet higher than that, that will now mean 19 feet of depth.
King March 25 began spreading the 34,000 cubic yards of spoils onto Oval Beach 4,900 to 6,500 feet south of the river mouth. Barring weather delays, it should button up work within two weeks.
Any negative impact on or near the beach will be minor and temporary, USACE Grand Haven Branch construction chief Chris Schropp said.
The work could cause a “temporary degradation of the aesthetic quality” in the area, that is, the water could be cloudy and wildlife could experience a minor disturbance.
The federal government did not originally include Saugatuck, considered by the Corps a “recreational harbor,” in dredging plans for 2019. The federal channel here requires deepening on a 3- to 4-year cycle per guidelines, but dredging was last done here in 2013.
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, pushed for funds and $375,000 was awarded for the area work last June.
“These operations and maintenance projects are past due,” said Upton, “and need to be prioritized to ensure the region does not suffer the consequences, including loss of jobs and loss of recreational, commercial and charter fishing for thousands of people.”
The updated work plan came about when Congress appropriated additional funding for ongoing work in the fiscal year 2018 Energy & Water Development Appropriations Act as contained in the 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act.
The new plan also calls for harbors in South Haven and New Buffalo to receive $365,000 and $275,000 worth of dredging respectively.
King will be contractor for those projects, plus ones in Frankfort and Pentwater this year, Schropp said.