Great Lakes water levels continue rising, but West Michigan harbors still need dredging, Commercial Record correspondent Jim Hayden reports in his Bicycle Base Fennville blog.
Work in Holland is scheduled to begin this week, but Saugatuck and South Haven have not received federal funding for any dredging.
Lakes Michigan-Huron averaged at 580 feet above sea level for April, 0.84 inch above the March level of 579.93 feet, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which monitors water levels. Both lakes, writes Hayden, are considered one because they are linked by the Straits of Mackinac.
The April level is 4.8 inches above last year and 15.96 inches above the average of 578.67 feet.
“Over the next 30 days, Lake Superior and Lake Michigan-Huron are both projected to rise 3 inches,” said the Corps May 3 on its webpage.
Despite rising lake levels, channels still need to be dredged for shipping, notes Hayden. The Corps announced April 30 that Holland, Manistee and Portage Lake harbors will be dredged this season, but not others in West Michigan.
The Corps granted King Co. of Holland about $788,000 to dredge approximately 56,000 cubic yards of material from Holland’s inner harbor. Material from the site will be placed into the Holland Township upland placement site.
Holland’s commercial harbor handles coal, building materials, petroleum products and other commodities. Dredging was slated to start this week and be completed by Aug. 31. The harbor was last dredged in 2014.
Saugatuck and South Haven, considered recreational harbors, are not in the budget for dredging. U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph wrote Army Civil Works Assistant Secretary R.D. James to get those harbors April 19 asking to get these two, plus the New Buffalo harbor, into the dredging cycle.
“The dredging of our harbors big and small is critical in Southwest Michigan to recreation, economic activity and jobs,” Upton wrote on his website.
“I’ve always fought for these funds which are so important locally,” he continued. “From good-paying local jobs, fishing and fun — these recreational harbors need attention and I’m hopeful we can deliver.”
The last dredging for all three was done in 2013.
Saugatuck harbor, noted Upton, requires dredging on a 3- to 4-year cycle, South Haven harbor requires dredging on a 2- to 4-year cycle and New Buffalo on a 1- to 2-year cycle.
“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 Corp’s Detroit District maintains a navigation system of 91 harbors and four connecting channels, including the channels joining lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, St. Clair and Erie, Hayden said.