Brutal Winter Raises Water Levels Pausing Multi-Million Dollar Dredging Plans

Posted at 6:20 PM, Jun 16, 2014
and last updated 2014-06-16 20:04:50-04

SAUGATUCK, Mich. (June 16, 2014) – After the brutal snowy winter, Mother Nature left some good news for the cities of Saugatuck and Douglas: slightly higher water levels. This allows the cities to step back to do some long range planning.

“We actually have a dredging plan in place for what we call phase one or emergency dredging,” said Bill LeFevere, Douglas City Manager.

LeFevere said the cities formed a Harbor Authority to form a dredging plan to deepen three emergency channels, or Phase I of their long-term plan. According to LeFevere, the cities have permits from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Environmental Protection Agency, Michigan Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin dredging. However, the cities can hold off from dredging immediately and continue long-term planning because of higher water levels.

“The cities have never undertaken a project like this. The Harbor Authority was formed about two and a half years ago: this is our first attempt at putting together a comprehensive for the community, and one that will address the needs long term for the harbor,” said LeFevere.

The Harbor Authority estimates $1.5 million to dredge emergency channels and another $450,000 to build a containment facility to store the silt that would come from the dredging.

LeFevere said dredging is a long-term issue that they’re dealing with for the first time.

“Dredging is going to be an issue that’s going to face not only this community but many other communities along the lake that have sediment coming down the rivers that feed them. It’s an ongoing issue for our needs and the recreational opportunities and the economic vitality of many communities including ours,” said LeFevere.

The Harbor Authority began putting in buoys in Kalamazoo Lake to mark the deeper sections to help boaters navigate safely. City officials said while they can hold off dredging immediately, it remains a major issue to tackle in the long run.