Saugatuck-Douglas to get funding to dredge shallow waters

Updated: Friday, February 22 2013, 06:58 PM EST
Saugatuck-Douglas to get funding to dredge shallow waters  story image
SAUGATUCK-DOUGLAS, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – A lakeshore community will get the money it needs to dredge its shallow waters.

The Saugatuck-Douglas community has been hit hard by low lake levels, but when Governor Rick Snyder announced in February that $21 million dollars had been earmarked for dredging Michigan harbors, Saugatuck-Douglas was not on the list, now that has changed.

The news comes as a relief to the lakeshore community, which banks on the economic impact of recreational boaters during the summer months.

Many say it was the news of a large cruise ship’s return to Saugatuck that helped push the funding through.

The docking of the Yorktown along the Kalamazoo River in Saugatuck in the summer of 2012 was big news, but low water levels stirred concern the ship wouldn’t navigate the channel.

“The corps of engineers said if they hit a swell, even a sailboat, they could hit ground like that,” said Felicia Fairchild, Saugatuck-Douglas Convention and Visitors Bureau, “it’s dangerous.”

Following a successful season in 2012, the ship will dock in Saugatuck at least a dozen times more in the summer of 2013, but with water levels the lowest they have been since the early 1900s, the ship needs at least ten feet of water to make its way in.

A tough tourism season there means fewer sales tax dollars for the State of Michigan, perhaps a selling point for state approval of dredging funds.

“We are one of the few harbors this year that will welcome a cruise ship, the Yorktown, and I think the negative press of not bringing that ship in could be a concern for the state,” said Rep. Bob Genetski (R) Saugatuck.

Letter after letter has been written to the governor, asking for help clearing the channel. That funding has just now been approved and city leaders are hopeful the news comes with enough time to draw in others.

“The recreational boating industry has an economic impact of about $25 million a year, it’s huge,” said Fairchild. “Even more than that and the tourism impact here is about $255 million a year."

Last year the Yorktown alone brought in $40,000 for city tours, and nearly $700,000 in media coverage for the state.

"It’s going to alleviate some of those concerns, which is why it is so important to get the word out that we are solving the problem," said Fairchild.

Rep. Genetski told Newschannel 3 that he hopes the paperwork will be on the governor’s desk within the next two weeks.

In early spring crews will come out and survey the channel to see just how much work needs to be done.

The Yorktown is slated to make its first visit of the summer in early July. Saugatuck-Douglas to get funding to dredge shallow waters
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