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Commissioners move river dredging forward, talk future options

Posted on March 18, 2024

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners is looking at ways to ensure the St. Joseph River can be dredged when necessary as arrangements are made to do fast tracked, emergency dredging this year.

Community Development Director Dan Fette told commissioners Thursday one bid has come in to do engineering for dredging this spring at a cost of $50,000. He asked commissioners for approval to award the bid to get the dredging done before a May deadline.

Commissioner Jon Hinkelman noted Fette in 2014 floated a plan to pay for regular dredging via an assessment affecting slip and boat owners. It was never adopted.

“We’re in a rush right now trying to get this done, trying to get it done before spawning season comes in and all of that,” Hinkelman said. “And it’s up to the board whether we ask you guys to re-engage trying to come up with a solution. But solutions were found. They weren’t accepted by local communities and by organizations, but we really need to, I think, have that dialogue again.”

Board Chair Mac Elliott said it would make sense if there was a system in place prevent situations like the current one. He said boating is important to the area.

“The economic development benefit is palpable,” Elliott said. “The city and the township — St. Joe City, St. Joe Township — are the primary beneficiaries. It’s significant to just about every business, not just charter and recreational boating, but restaurants, to gas stations.”

Fette’s proposal ten years ago was met with little support in the boating community, but commissioners suggested maybe that will change now that the boating season is upon us and part of the river could be unnavigable.

Commissioners then gave Fette the go ahead to engage Peterson and VandenBerg Environmental of Grand Haven to prepare for dredging while a state permit is sought and funds are collected from marinas and nearby communities.


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