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Emergency harbor dredging complete; Silver Beach benefits

Posted on December 19, 2022

A southwest Michigan port that had been closed to commercial vessels is now open.

The emergency dredging project in the St. Joseph Harbor has cleared a path for vessel traffic to enter the harbor without assistance. Weather conditions allowed King Company of Holland to complete the project in the span of about a week.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers confirmed the results, which can be seen here.

“King Company did great,” said St. Joseph Harbormaster Michael Moran, adding the project involved many moving parts coming together. “The Corps of Engineers got a contract done in record time, and King Company got a channel dug right through the sandbar,” Moran said. “I wasn’t sure that the weather was gonna cooperate with them, but we got really fortunate. They got a good weather window and they took advantage of it and they got it done.”

The path, seen above, will allow vessel traffic to come straight in and out without assist tugs, according to Moran. It will also allow self unloading bulk carriers to use the harbor.

Moran said he isn’t sure how many ships are scheduled to come into the harbor this late in the season.

“Everyone’s going through and seeing what we can get in,” he said. “Weather, with ship arrivals, is still a factor, but we’re going to see how many boats we can get in.”

One beneficiary of all the dredging has been Silver Beach.

“They added quite a bit of sand there,” Moran said. “It should be looking pretty good come this spring.”

According to Moran, there is still more dredging work to be done, as well as work taking down the pipe used to move the sand.

“We have made great progress,” he said. “King Company will be in place and ready to go in the spring.”

The harbor has been closed to commercial traffic since Oct. 20, when the a 630-foot bulk carrier Manitowoc struck the bottom while attempting to enter the harbor. Moran said the sand blocked at least half the channel, and was caused by storms causing gale-force winds and 15-foot waves.

Since the harbor closed, a joint effort between the Army Corps, the City of St. Joseph, commercial shipping stakeholders and elected officials were involved in finding a solution.

“I just want to thank the core of engineers and King Company and everyone else for getting involved and making this happen,” Moran said. “It took a lot to get this done in this short of a timeframe and everyone really came together.”


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