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County considering plan to dredge St. Joseph River

Posted on March 12, 2024

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners has heard from Community Development Director Dan Fette about the need for dredging in the St. Joseph River.

Speaking to the board Thursday, Fette said he’s been contacted by marinas about excessive sand that’s threatening the recreational boating season in the area.

“We have been told that there are observed depths of between two and four feet in some areas of the river — essentially what I’m told is near the Tackle Haven docks over on Riverview Drive,” Fette said.

Fette said the county used to pay for dredging in the river, but it was too much of a burden, costing around $500,000 between 2009 and 2014.

In 2014 and 2015, the county pushed a proposal to establish an assessment district affecting slip owners to cover dredging costs, but the idea was opposed by too many in the boating community. In 2016, the county harbor authority was dissolved, leaving no entities in charge of dredging in the river.

Now that local boaters are concerned about the coming season, he proposed to commissioners that the county seek a permit for dredging so the boating community could pay for dredging under said permit.

“Private parties can certainly do this under a county permit, but we would have to supervise the activity to make sure it’s consistent with any of the conditions of the permit that we would receive. And time is of the essence here.”

That’s because dredging in the river isn’t allowed all throughout May due to sturgeon spawning.

Fette said the county has put out a request for proposals to get bids on dredging while it prepares its permit application. He expects to get bids on Wednesday. While it will be a challenge, he said the county could possibly get the dredging done in the coming weeks.

Board of Commissioners Chair Mac Elliott said the board will follow up with him and corporate counsel.


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