ALPENA -Now that the State of Michigan has approved the $21 million for emergency dredging in harbors around the state the city's granted money are preparing to have the work done, as well as putting plans in place to limit the affect it will have on boaters this summer.
In Alpena, Harbor Master Don Gilmet said the state also has passed legislation to speed up the permitting process through the Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to get the dredging projects under way in a timely manner. He said thus far samples of the lake's bottom have been submitted for study and he doesn't expect any trouble gaining the needed permit.
"Right now we are in the stage of taking some soil samples for the amount of sand in what will be dredged and also for the presence of any heavy metals, which we don't expect there to be," Gimet said. "If everything goes to our plan we should be able to begin dredging immediately after the Michigan Brown Trout Festival is over with at the end of July or the first part of August."
Bids have not been sent out to have the work done, but Gilmet, who sits on the Michigan Port Collaborative, said harbor masters from the communities where dredging will take place are working to coordinate contractors in an effort to defray costs. He said until the contractors are hired and plans are finalized it is hard to predict how long the dredging will take to complete.
"We are assuming a seven to 10 day project, but we are looking at the other projects," Gilmet said. "Let's say we know Rogers City will be dredged during a certain week and they are a lower bidder maybe we can schedule and do something with them. We are hoping to save some money which can be put back into the pool and maybe be able to be used for other projects or maintenance."
As the barge and crane are working in the harbor there will be periods when boaters will have to move around the work and maybe have to moor their boat near a different dock while work is ongoing.
"Of course there will be some interruption to the boaters. You can't go digging in the swimming pool when the kids are swimming and not have an interruption, but we will try to make it as painless as possible," Gilmet said. "One good thing is we have so many slips available. People will just have to move around the work when going out to the lake and back and we may have to relocate some boats, but hopefully there won't be any major disruption for the boaters and there won't be any added costs."
In the past Gilmet has said the shallow water in the harbor prevents some larger sailboats to enter and visitors where forced to moor in the river or move to another destination altogether. He said after the dredging is done that should no longer be a concern. He said he also thinks when the project is complete it will lead to more boats visiting and staying in Alpena.
"That has been one of the arguments the collaborative has been making is that if the dredging is done it will bring people in for all of the harbors up and down the lake," Gilmet said. "We're hoping this is going to be a big positive and we will see more boat traffic."
Gilmet said once the work is done plans need to be made to help the other communities that didn't receive money, but still need harbor work and to not let the problem get as bad as it is now again.
"We need to find a way to be able to maintain the work that is going to be done. If the lake levels stay where they are at, or God forbid go even lower, this will be a constant problem," Gilmet said. "We need to work on a long term plan to see what will be needed over the next 20 years so down the road we don't end up with another $21 million problem."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.