BY MICHAEL WALTON email@example.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — A bill to provide nearly $21 million in emergency harbor dredging funds for more than 40 Michigan harbors, including four in the Grand Traverse region, is headed to Gov. Rick Snyder for final approval.
The bill also contains appropriations for conservation and trail projects in the region, including $2 million to help Long Lake Township and the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy purchase the 250-acre Timbers Recreation Area.
The township and conservancy still need to raise about $800,000 in order to acquire the land and its 2,000 feet of frontage on Long Lake for public use, but that's a reasonable goal considering the property was valued at about $6 million five years ago, said Matt McDonough, director of land protection for the conservancy.
"It's still a big number, but it's less than $6 million bucks," he said.
The Michigan Senate approved a final version of the bill with a 30-5 vote yesterday. Area harbor officials said they expect Snyder to sign the law. Snyder in February identified harbor dredging as a top priority in Michigan.
"He's the guy who started this whole thing," said Leland Harbormaster Russell Dzuba.
Leland could receive about $420,000 in dredging money if Snyder signs the bill, which allocates $11.5 million for dredging projects from the state's general fund and $9.5 million from Michigan's waterway fund.
The legislation sets aside up to $2.2 million for dredging at Frankfort Municipal Marina, $420,000 for Elk Rapids Memorial Harbor and $87,500 for the Northport harbor.
Frankfort's money will go toward a number of projects intended to secure recreational boating and sport fishing opportunities in the Frankfort-Elberta communities, including dredging all navigable channels and municipal slips and preserving the routes fish swim between their spawning grounds in the river and Lake Michigan, Frankfort Manager Joshua Mills said.
"Thus facilitating a multimillion dollar industry," Mills said.
Dzuba said local harbor officials need to start dredging projects quickly in order to complete them as early as possible this summer.
"We're not out of the woods yet," Dzuba said.
Dzuba used the Mackinac Island race to illustrate the importance of getting harbors ready for the summer tourism season.
"The horde falls on Leland for one night, drinks all the beer in town and leaves behind a pile of money," he said. "We depend on an economic punch from the boating season."