The cities of Whitehall and Montague are hoping to get financial help in making the Whitehall Municipal Marina and the boat launch accessible amidst record low water levels. Pictured here is the Whitehall Marina, with the boat launch in the background.
The neighboring cities of Whitehall and Montague are hoping to get financial help in providing full access to their boating facilities on White Lake in the face of record low water levels in the Great Lakes and connecting waters
Whitehall operates the Whitehall Municipal Marina and Montague operates a public boat launch on White Lake which is connected to Lake Michigan through the White Lake Channel. Both are Michigan Waterways Commission facilities.
To help local communities which have harbors of refuge, recreational boating harbors, marinas and boat launches, the Michigan State Waterways Commission has adopted an emergency dredging plan that will provide zero-match grant funding opportunities.’
That could be welcome news for the cities.
The cost of making the Whitehall Municipal Marina accessible to recreational boats could be $225,000, according Whitehall City Manager Scott Huebler.
“The city’s engineers Prein and Newhof have reviewed the water depths at the marina, and how much soils would need to be dredged,” he said.
Currently, Huebler said the marina has water depths around three and a half to four feet. The city would like the water depth to be six feet.
Huebler said the city did some dredging around the marina’s fuel dock in 2012.
Montague City Manager John French said the city may have to do more than dredge to make its boat launch accessible to White Lake for many boats.
French said the city is looking at maintenance dredging, but also extending the actual concrete ramps from 9 to 20 feet farther into the lake from the docks.
“An obstacle is we need a permit to do the work,” French said.
The city manager said the city has worked with neighboring Ellenwood Landing marina on maintenance dredging in recent years.
Another concern, is the boat launch, or portions of it, will not be accessible when the ramps are extended.
“We will have to dike the area,” he referred to the need to keep water out of the area where the ramps are extended.
French said the city is moving “full steam ahead,” on the project.
He added that the Montague boat launch is a key facility for recreational boating and fishing on White Lake and Lake Michigan.
“For some boats we’re the only game in town.”
As part of the emergency dredging plan, the DNR Parks and Recreation Division announced it will redirect nearly $8.8 million of Waterways funding from existing appropriations; allocate $0.7 million of uncommitted Waterways funding; and receive $11.5 million from the FY 2013 General Fund, as recommended in Gov. Rick Snyder’s just-released budget. In total, nearly $21 million would be dedicated toward keeping Michigan’s waterways operational.
According to Ron Olson, DNR Parks and Recreation Division chief, dredging involves the removal of accumulated bottom sediments in waterways to maintain adequate depth for navigation.
“Such dredging is needed in the most critically affected areas in order to allow safe access to harbors,” added Olson. “Without this action, some harbors are in real danger of closing.”
To streamline the grant-funding process, the state of Michigan will:
• Waive the regular local-match requirement for 2013 emergency dredging projects;
• Immediately contact communities that have been identified to receive zero-match Waterways grant emergency-dredging monies;
• Not accept 2013 grant applications because of the decision to redirect funding; and
• Facilitate coordination and involvement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
According to DNR Director Keith Creagh, quickly and creatively solving the challenge of low water levels is important on many fronts.
“The safety of Great Lakes boaters, as well as the economies of local communities, urgently demands dredging work in the hardest-hit areas,” said Creagh. “Because federal money for dredging of harbors is uncertain, we have found our own solution. The emergency dredging plan helps address the problem for this year. We must still seek a long-term solution to this continuing challenge.”
Creagh added that in addition to boater safety and the health of local economies, the swift actions laid out in the emergency dredging plan will preserve broad access to the Great Lakes and improve recreational boating opportunities statewide. The DNR will redirect staff toward dredging at state facilities with no extra funding.
To estimate the cost of the emergency dredging plan, the DNR surveyed all 83 public recreational boating harbors (63 local municipal harbors; 19 state harbors; and one federal harbor) in December 2012 and January 2013, with a response rate of 82 percent.
With more than 800,000 registered boats in 2011, ranking third highest in the nation, the health and sustainability of Michigan’s waterways are vital to the state’s economy. Water levels will continue to be monitored throughout the year.
The emergency dredging plan was developed in collaboration with the DNR, the Michigan State Waterways Commission and the Department of Environment Quality, including the Office of the Great Lakes.