The New Buffalo CIty Council moved forward with plans to dredge shallow areas of the Galien River used by boaters to travel in the federal channel between the city’s harbor, boat launch and Lake Michigan during its Feb. 19 meeting.
The council unanimously approved a $6,500 bid for “Launch Access Channel” dredging engineering and a $7,138.75 bid for the launch channel dredging permit modification, both from Wightman & Associates.
City Manager William “Rusty” Geisler said he was unable to update the council on a grant request for federal channel dredging in the river that was made to the Pokagon Fund because that entity’s board meeting on the issue had been postponed until Friday, Feb. 22.
The news on that front was good when it was released on Monday, Feb. 25.
The Pokagon Fund announced that a municipal grant of $200,000 would be awarded to the City of New Buffalo for Federal Channel dredging. According to the press release, this brings the total amount awarded by the Pokagon Fund for dredging both the harbor (what the city describes as the “Launch Access Channel” between the Whittaker Street Bridge and the City Boat Launch)
and the river to $350,000.
Geisler said on Feb. 19 that Harbor Point was willing to pay $10,000 toward the Launch Access Channel project engineering costs, leaving the city with just over $3,000 left to cover.
Record low water levels are currently being recorded on Lake Michigan.
In a press release issued on Tuesday, Feb. 26, New Buffalo Mayor Warren Peterson said “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 city has reportedly secured permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, as well as emergency dredging funding through the City’s Emergency Harbor Dredging Fund (which receives money from the city and local harbor associations) and the Pokagon Fund grants. An an amended permit to dredge at the City Transient Marina also has been submitted.
The financial picture related to dredging had brightened even more, at least potentially, a day after the Feb. 19 meeting.
State Rep. Al Pscholka and state Sen. John Proos announced in a Feb. 20 press release that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Emergency Dredging Plan includes a proposed $1 million for the New Buffalo Municipal Marina.
Also included were proposals of $105,000 for the St. Joseph West Basin Marina harbor and $436,050 for the South Haven Municipal Marina.
The release also stated that, in order for the funds to be distributed to the appropriate municipalities and utilized, the Michigan Legislature will first have to concur with the governor’s recommendation that $21 million be spent for the purpose of dredging.
A release from the two elected officials also noted that the DNR plan requests that the money be appropriated from the Waterways Fund and a portion from the general fund. The DNR is also looking to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the federal government to give supplemental funding.
According to the Feb. 20 release, the DNR has promised to waive the requirement that local governments match the funds appropriated to them by the state and will immediately contact communities that have been identified to receive zero-match Waterways grant emergency-dredging monies.