Booher, Franz lead discussion about dredging in Portage Lake

LANSING—Sen. Darwin Booher and Rep. Ray Franz met with Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh and local officials on Thursday in Onekama to discuss the urgent need for dredging in Portage Lake.

“Sandbars and low water levels are combining to turn Portage Lake Harbor into a hazard for boaters – putting millions in economic activity at risk,” said Booher, R-Evart. “Sustaining a healthy harbor is important on several fronts, including supporting local jobs and ensuring recreational access to Michigan’s great lakes. I want to thank Director Creagh for coming up to Onekama to hear from local leaders about this serious issue.”

Franz has sponsored House Resolution 325 and House Concurrent Resolution 62, calling upon Congress to use funds from the federal Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund’s $5 billion surplus for dredging and maintenance work at 15 ‘harbor of refuge’ facilities in Michigan. Congress established a federal harbor maintenance tax on shippers to fund harbor operations and maintenance at U.S. ports.

“Roughly $1.5 billion in maintenance taxes was collected from shippers last year, but the critical dredging needs of Great Lakes harbors have not been met,” said Franz, R-Onekama. “It is only common sense that the fund’s surplus funding be used as intended – to manage and maintain this important infrastructure for Great Lakes shipping and boating traffic.

“This is about marine safety and the economy. Without a safe passage into the harbor, this area could lose hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars.”

Portage Lake Harbor Commission Chairman Jim Mrozinksi attended the meeting. Mrozinksi said that sandbars, erosions and low water levels have turned the port into a dangerous entrance for residents and Lake Michigan boaters, and that without a clear passage through the channel, 200 jobs and $3 million in revenue could be lost and property values could drop by 35 percent.

Franz’ resolutions were adopted by the House of Representatives in September.

Editor’s Note: A print-quality photograph of Booher and Franz at Portage Lake is available by visiting the senator’s website at: Click on the Photowire tab.