Bush expected to approve dredging funds
Written by Muskegon Chronicle   
Thursday, 20 December 2007 10:59

During the Chicago to Mackinac race last year, Juanita Pierman watched as large sailboats passed by the Pentwater Municipal Marina.

The vessels drifted toward the safer confines of Ludington's commercial harbor rather than risk grounding on a sandbar nearly blocking the recreational port.

"It was enough to break your heart," said Pierman, the Pentwater village president.

"We rely on (our marina) for the traffic coming in and the business it generates. If it shuts down, we shut down. We desperately need our harbor to be open and operating."

In a move that could propel a happy holiday in Pentwater and other Lake Michigan shoreline communities, Congress on Wednesday approved a spending bill that includes dredging projects at recreational and commercial harbors.

The bill includes $523,000 for dredging in Muskegon, $205,000 for White Lake, $607,000 for Grand Haven and $151,000 for Pentwater.

President Bush is expected to sign the bill, according to Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Holland.

Hoekstra said every eligible harbor in West Michigan will receive federal money for dredging work.

While commercial harbors in Holland, Grand Haven and Muskegon were cleared of shoals last spring, recreational harbors were forced to go without or raise private funds to move sand from access channels.

"This is encouraging news here and the other areas," Pierman said.

Low lake levels and shifting sands have even caused trouble at ports that were dredged as recently as last spring.

Lake Michigan's water level is currently 26 inches below its long-term average. The lake level has dropped nearly four feet over the past 10 years.

Earlier this month, a Canadian freighter ran aground at the Grand Haven channel head, forcing workers to unload some of the limestone on board and go on to Muskegon.

Freighters also ran aground last summer at the mouth of the Muskegon channel.
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