Officials learn how to get dredging permits

Mar 8, 2013 Issues: Economy and Jobs, Great Lakes, Transportation

LEXINGTON — It was a full house at the Lexington Community Center on Friday as public harbormasters, private marina owners and concerned citizens showed up to listen to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Michigan Department of Environmental Qualitydescribe the application process for dredging funds.

Several local communities have received emergency dredging funds from the state, but they will each need project-specific applications to go through the Army Corps of Engineers and MDEQ before any work can begin.

The meeting was coordinated by U.S. Rep. Candice Miller’s office and she introduced the speakers first by underscoring the importance of the funds.

“We are the Great Lakes state,” she said. “That is our identity and we all understand how utilizing the state’s lakes and harbors is what we do. It’s great to have the money but there is always a bureaucracy to get through.”

“We’ve got a problem, it looks like we have a great way to resolve it. This meeting is to make sure we can do so as quickly as possible. We want to be open for business.”

Mark Lesinski with the Army Corps of Engineers Bay City field office carefully walked attendees through the entire permit application, explaining why things need to be filled out, how much detail they need to have, how to avoid some common errors and who to call if they have any questions.

He emphasized that now is the perfect time to talk about the applications because anyone interested in having a dredging project completed this year will need to get those applications in soon.

His counterpart in the MDEQ, Brian Rudolph, did the same.

“So many projects get slowed down just because we’re waiting for a complete application,” he said. “Our goal is to move these projects through as quickly as we can. There were 265 dredging projects pending in our office already this month that we are committed to moving through by April, but we know there are a lot more coming.”

State Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Twp., and State Rep. Andrea LaFontaine, R-Columbus Twp., also attended the meeting and gave an update on where things sit at the state level.

Pavlov said the Senate recently passed legislation that would release emergency dredging funds and sent it to the House for approval.

“In terms of Lansing legislation, this is moving very fast,” he said.

Rudolph said the MDEQ anticipates the funds will be released by the end of this month, at which point the department can begin issuing permits.

LaFontaine said there were many harbors and marinas that need dredging help that were not included in the emergency appropriation. There are no emergency dredging sites in her district.

She explained legislation that she recently co-sponsored with Sen. Jack Brandenburg, R-Harrison Twp., to make low-interest loans available to marinas for dredging.

The loans would be capped at $500,000 per project to be repaid over five years. She said the legislation has not been through committee and could change, but she called it a start.

After the presentations, attendees were able to ask questions about both the process in general and their specific projects.

David Marschall, harbormaster for Port Sanilac, said the meeting was helpful.

“It is always good to keep up on what’s going on,” he said. “We want to make sure we are on top of this.”