Dredge project was fiasco; plan for 2013
It’s become an annual spring event in Fishtown. Steelhead move into the Leland River to spawn at about the same time a flap develops over dredging of the harbor mouth.
While we didn’t catch the steelhead run, we heard and reported about the dredging — as we do every year. The stories generally start with a realization that Congress has no intention of approving an “earmark” to pay for dredging of small harbors in the Great Lakes, even harbors of refuge. Leland has such a designation, making it an important haven for boaters during Lake Michigan storms. While certainly the community of Leland benefits from the harbor, the federal government holds responsibility to keep it open and able to fulfill an essential role for boaters.
Eventually the dredge is ordered by Leland Township. There’s no other choice. Shoreline currents fill the harbor entrance with sand to the point that many boats — including Manitou Island Transit Company ferries — are in danger of grounding.
Then there’s a scramble to find money to pay for the work.
And the whole mess works out. At least in years past.
It’s still a mess in 2012. Most of the things that could go wrong, have.
More sand was dredged than estimated, upping the cost from $88,000 to $116,000. Some $60,000 in pledged donations resulted in a net of $22,000. Also counted into the shifting dredging budget was $25,000 in funds the township assumes will be provided by the Grand Traverse Band — even though a decision on that request won’t come until next week.
Confused? Us too. Steelhead seem more organized.
Somewhere, somehow, we expect Leland Township to find the money to pay for a dredge that was completed months ago. The bill was incurred; it has to be paid. So our comment has to do more with next year, when the steelhead will run and the harbor mouth will fill and Congress will shrink from its responsibilities.
The Leland Township Board should insist that a plan to dredge the harbor in 2013 be put in place soon, while the issue is fresh. Harbor master Russell Dzuba should make such a proposal, which would go to the township Harbor Commission for refinement and a recommendation, then to the Township Board for approval.
History doesn’t have to repeat itself. The 2013 dredge should not be ordered until the township secures funds to pay for it.