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Delays push South Haven dredging into beach season

Posted on July 17, 2023

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — One of South Haven’s beaches is more of a work zone than a tourist destination, as crews continue dredging the shoreline. Since late June, dredging and beach nourishment work has been under way at the city’s South Beach, addressing a yearslong problem.

In 2020, high water levels in Lake Michigan forced the city to install flood barriers, which were around for around two years.

“We did not have much beach here (then),” said South Haven city manager Kate Hosier. “As you can see now, with the 57,000 cubic yards, the (Army) Corps of Engineers is putting on the beach, it is growing … Having the water recede down has really helped the beach grow.”

The $542,000 federally-funded project is overseen by the Army Corps. of Engineers. A spokesperson told News 8 the work extending the beach 1,900 feet to the south will help slow erosion and reduce the risk of flood damage from Lake Michigan to the South Haven Water Filtration Facility. Hosier said such conditions would have risked contaminating the city’s drinking water.

“When we did have a high-water incident in 2020, we were concerned about that reservoir being breached or being imperiled by the high water, because it affects our over 11,000 drinking water customers,” she explained.

Danielle Persky, health officer at the Van Buren-Cass District Health Department, confirmed that results from routine beach sampling conducted Monday showed no contamination.

Some wondered why work is being done in the middle of summer, at the peak of beach season.

“That definitely was a shock to us,” said one visitor.

“I’m not sure of the method to the madness. It is a little bit odd, especially considering there is a very marginal window of beach time here in Michigan,” said beachgoer Alyssa Gilman.

“I would just like if that stuff wasn’t in the way so everyone else can have more space to run around,” said Gilman’s daughter, Mia.

The Army Corps of Engineers spokesman explained the timeline was due to severe weather delays from the spring and “other dredging contracts at commercial harbors along the Lake Michigan coast.”

“The commercial harbors take priority in dredging due to the large commercial boat traffic that require access to their harbors,” he continued.

“It did come at an awkward time, I should say that,” said Hosier. “Having this around July 4th was not ideal and it was not our choice.”

According to the Army Corps. of Engineers, work should be done by Friday, before crews and their equipment are expected to move out by the end of next week.

“It was nice to work with them,” Hosier said. “I am sure many people will be happy to have the beach going back where it is not an active construction zone.”


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