State Representative Garey Bies (R-Sister Bay) announced that the Joint Finance Committee approved a motion that includes $5.2 million for the dredging of the channel between Northport and Detroit Harbor.
The committee began voting last week on appropriations in Governor Walker’s biennial budget and offering other amendments for consideration. The money for Washington Island was part of a larger transportation package.
“This is great news for the residents of Washington Island,” exclaimed Bies. “I’m thankful to the members of the committee who listened to my concerns and prioritized funding for the project.”
Lake Michigan hit record low water levels this winter making ferry travel to the Island nearly impossible. The Army Corps of Engineers predict the levels to remain low – threatening the safety and well-being of the folks who live on the Island. Lake Michigan and Lake Huron have been below average for 14 consecutive years, which is the longest stretch in recorded history.
“While the safety of the residents of the Island is the biggest concern,” said Bies. “I was also worried about the significant economic impact a loss of ferry access would mean to the Island and our district as a whole. Year-round access generates more than $16 million in annual economic activity through the transportation of passengers, vehicles and cargo.”
Last October, Governor Walker gave the Town of Washington an Emergency Harbor Assistance grant to finalize plans for dredging. The Town has committed 20% of the total project cost and will work with the DOT to ensure all project specifications are met. The plans call for work is to begin in August 2013 with a completion of September 2014.
Final approval for the funding is still needed from the full Senate and Assembly and signed into law by the governor as part of the final two-year state budget.
Press Release, May 2, 2013