Michigan Recreational Harbors Receive No Dredging Funds in 2007

By Dale Fitch

The US Army Corps of Engineers recently announced that Manistee, Pentwater and Arcadia harbors will not be dredged during 2007 due to budgetary constraints. None of Michigan's recreational harbors will receive funding for dredging in 2007. Ludington and Manistee harbors serve commercial shipping and have been on a three year rotation for dredging. Ludington's harbor dredging was begun in 2006 and will be completed this year to a project depth of 27.5 feet. Manistee's harbor, while it may be treacherous for commercial traffic, should be safe for recreational boaters.

The smaller harbors of Arcadia and Pentwater rely heavily upon tourism, and the inability of pleasure craft to safely enter these harbors will pose a significant economic loss to these communities. These harbors have been dredged on an annual basis in the past and normally shoal to the extent that boaters have to carefully navigate the channel prior to dredging and entry during times of large waves is very dangerous. This is the situation that will face recreational boaters in 2007 unless a solution to the dredging is found.

In addition to the problems faced trying to get into these harbors, the loss of these harbors of refuge will pose additional problems during storms or severe weather. The distance between commercial harbors of Muskegon and Ludington is approximately 60 miles. The distance from Manistee to Frankfort, the next commercial harbor to the north is approximately 27 miles, so that is not a major concern. These distances ignore the recreational harbors of Onekama, 8 miles north of Manistee and White Lake, which is approximately 9 miles north of Muskegon. These harbors, like Pentwater, are recreational harbors and because of shoaling may be hazardous.

The communities involved are devastated by the economic repercussions of this funding decision. Michigan Sea Grant has scheduled public meetings to discuss options available for alternative funding programs. Interested persons should also write to their federal and state legislators concerning the dredging issue. We will continue to monitor this situation and report developments as they occur.
In the meantime, prudent boaters should carefully navigate these harbors. The most current charts will not reflect the current depths of these harbors. Local marinas will be an excellent source of information regarding the depths and routes to navigate. Above all, vessels navigating these harbors should do so at slow speeds and entry should not be attempted during times of high seas.

Capt. Dale Fitch can be reached at dale@LetsGoSail.net.

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