USA: Dredging Plan Introduced for New Buffalo Harbor
Lake Michigan water level is at an all-time low – and levels are expected to continue dropping. Despite this, New Buffalo Mayor Warren Peterson is resolute, “safe navigation in New Buffalo Harbor is a top priority of the City of New Buffalo…. the City is committed to having the waterway from the City Boat Launch through the Federal Channel dredged by April 30, 2013.”
The State of Michigan’s Emergency Dredging Plan states that the total average annual economic impact of registered boats on Michigan’s economy yields: $3.9 billion in trip and craft spending, $1.9 billion in value added, $1.3 billion in personal income, and 51,329 jobs. The economic impact of New Buffalo Harbor on all of Harbor Country is also monumental. The Harbor generates over $7.7 million in revenue throughout the area, which supports 130 jobs, and those jobs generate $2.5 million annually in labor income (New Buffalo Harbor Fact Sheet, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, 2010.)
To ensure safe navigation in New Buffalo Harbor, the City secured permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ,) as well as emergency dredging funding through the City’s Emergency Harbor Dredging Fund (a fund by contributions from the City and harbor associations, e.g. the Moorings, Oselka Marina, South Cove) and from grants from The Pokagon Fund to dredge the Federal Channel and the Launch Access Channel (between the Whittaker Street Bridge, where the Federal Channel ends, and the City Boat Launch.)
The City applied to the Pokagon Fund for emergency dredging funding for all three areas last December, after the Superstorm Sandy storm pattern battered the area, causing unsafe navigational conditions due to sedimentation build-up. This funding was applied for on an emergency basis, provided that other government funding was not forthcoming.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s proposed budget makes state-funded emergency dredging now seem possible. If approved by the Michigan Legislature, nearly $21 million would be dedicated toward keeping 83 public recreational boating harbors operational. Approximately $1 million has been dedicated to New Buffalo’s dredging needs.
Since 2009, approximately $600,000 has been spent to keep just the Federal Navigation Channel open ($274,000 from The Pokagon Fund; $217,000 from Congress; and about $109,000 from the City’s Emergency Harbor Dredging Fund. The USACE budget request for New Buffalo Federal Navigation Channel dredging in fiscal year 2013 is $270,000.
This year the Launch Access Channel and boat slips at the City Transient Marina also need to be dredged; which has not happened in over ten years. The City has received permits to dredge the Launch Access Channel, and has applied for an amended permit to dredge at the City Transient Marina.
The Launch Access Channel sounding provided by the City was used by the State of Michigan to estimated 25,200 cubic yards of material needs to be dredged, at an estimated cost of $882,000. The current permit held by the City only allows for 9,999 cubic yards to be dredged annually. The City is working with state officials to determine the best way to amend the permit.
Press Release, February 27, 2013