Posted on January 23, 2024
From August until this month, the Army Corps of Engineers and contractor MCM Marine have been clearing sediment in Ludington Harbor, along the Lake Michigan shorelineas part of a dredging operation.
During that time period, thousands of feet of pipe moved sediment from the upstream limit of the dredging, which is near the Badger’s dock all the way south across Pere Marquette Lake to the placement area near Buttersville Campground, said Public Affairs Specialist Brandon Hubbard of the USACE Detroit District.
“We were hoping that the contractor would be done sooner, but given equipment limitations and weather, they were unable to finish. They’ve wrapped up for the winter and it has not been determined yet whether we will require them to dig more in the spring,” Hubbard said.
MCM was the contractor and they are based in Sault Ste. Marie.
“USACE surveys the work already done and determines whether the contract requirements are met at the end of each project,” said Hubbard.
Hubbard said the contractor put in their own hydraulic dredging pipes as a temporary replacement. Using pipes eliminated the cost of transporting sediment with barges. They transport dredged sediment and water from the harbor shoals out to the shore.
“Think of these temporary pipes as a giant straw with a vacuum attached,” said Hubbard.
He explained that Fiscal Year 2022 and 2023 funds were used to complete the removal job for Ludington Harbor and complete a beach nourishment project that was also funded.
Dredging is a method to keep the harbor passable for marine traffic and prevent other problems, such as wave shoaling. Wave shoaling is the effect by which surface waves change in height when entering shallow water.
A shallow harbor would require vessels to carry a light load, and create higher transportation costs, according to the project’s factsheet. A seemingly insignificant loss of four to six feet of channel depth would result in increased transportation costs between $44,000 and $101,000 annually.
If the harbor were to close to commercial vessel traffic, commodities would have to be transported by rail and truck, according to the project fact sheet provided by the Army Corps of Engineers.
About $117.2 million in business revenue is brought in through the harbor. Commodities received are limestone, sand, gravel, slag and salt.
With compromised harbor depth, the S.S. Badger, which maintains cross-lake service for passenger vehicles and commercial trucks, wouldn’t be able to sail.
Hubbard said there is currently no follow up project planned, and that winter weather conditions have stopped the work from continuing. He also said MCM Marine will remove the temporary pipes to prevent damage or loss.
“And in the spring, the same pipes will be towed to other projects around the Great Lakes,” he said.