2009-05-21 / Front Page

Les Cheneaux Channel Dredging Gets Funding

By Jonathan Eppley

Lobbying by the Les Cheneaux Islands Waterways Restoration Group to get the Les Cheneaux channels dredged will soon pay off. Included in $6.1 million allocated for various waterways projects around the Great Lakes is dredging the Les Cheneaux channels, considered a "priority project," Wayne Schloop of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District announced at a Michigan Small Harbors Coalition (MSHC) meeting in Mount Pleasant Tuesday, May 12.

Mr. Schloop announced that $1.1 million more was allocated for 30 projects around the Great Lakes than the $5 million that was originally sought. The extra funding is almost enough to cover the cost of the Les Cheneaux project, which he expects to cost more than $1.4 million.

Although the funding is in place, the actual dredging may be put off until 2010, owing to a shortage of available contractors. Because so many contractors are working on stimulus-funded projects around Michigan, the likelihood that the channels will be dredged this year is "50-50," he said.

"It's difficult to give you an idea right now because things happen as the year goes by," he said. "It just depends on how everything goes."

In the meantime, the Corps of Engineers is seeking competitive bids for the project. Mr. Schloop expects the winning bid to be awarded sometime in August, and the actual dredging work to take about 60 days.

"If the dredging does happen this calendar year, it will likely be in the fall... and a lot of the boating season will be over then," he said.

Cedarville residents Linda Hudson, David Meninga, and Diane Patrick represented the Les Cheneaux group at the statewide Small Harbors Coalition meeting last week. Mr. Schloop outlined the various projects expected to be completed with the allocated funds during the meeting, outlining the Les Cheneaux project as one of the priorities, Mrs. Hudson reported.

The Michigan Small Harbors Coalition works to increase the amount of federal funding to harbor maintenance in the state, maintain public navigation infrastructure, and promote economic growth and the quality of life in harbor communities.

Pleased that the work of the local group is about to come to fruition, Mrs. Hudson pointed out that the channels in the Les Cheneaux Islands haven't been dredged since the early 1970s, and are "in bad enough shape." A subcommittee of the Les Cheneaux Watershed Council, the group has met every Tuesday morning for the last year and a half, she said.

The group has sought help from lawmakers and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to address sedimentation and weed growth in the channels around the Les Cheneaux Islands, claiming problems with navigation are harming the boating dependent economy in the area.

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