Dredging begins in New Buffalo

A $400,000 dredging project began today in New Buffalo—one of several Lake Michigan harbor communities threatened by low water levels.

“We’ve got almost 1,000 boat slips in new buffalo with a year round population a bit less than 2,000, so the ratio is monumental,” said New Buffalo Assistant City Manager Ryan Fellows.

The boating season is right around the corner and the dredging work is being funded through the State of Michigan’s Emergency Dredging Plan.

Some 15,000 cubic yards of material will be removed from the area around the boat launch and the city owned boat slips south of the bridge.

In mid-June the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to remove another 10,000 cubic yards of material where the channel meets the lake.

“1964 had been the all-time low until, this year, we broke, the all-time low,” said Jim Oselka of Oselka Marina. Lake Michigan’s new record lows recorded in January and February of 2013 served as a wake-up call to some.

“We were out during the winter on our barge as much as we could be taking readings and figuring out where we were at, and we did start the process of applying for our dredging permit in the event that we might need it,” said Jim Oselka.

Oselka is responsible for the basin near his boat slips. He says the business hasn’t had to dredge since his grandfather did it in the 1960’s.

Thanks to recent rains, the water level appears to be getting better—instead of worse. Still, some see the risk of doing noting—as too great.

“It’s about an $8 million dollar impact on the community, just the harbor so, it’s critical you know to the, not only New Buffalo but to the surrounding area they call Harbor Country,” said Jim Oselka.

Today, David Redick of Elite Detail was on the marina property waxing a boat for a client. “If a lot of the boats don't go in, a lot of the detailing won't be done, lot of the gas wouldn't be spent, lot of the restaurants, people would not be coming to the city.”

The dredging outfit that began its work in New Buffalo today just wrapped up a job in St. Joseph where it cleared the river there for commercial traffic.

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