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City hopes dredging, incentives bring more boaters to Lac Ste. Claire

The city will spend up to $75,938 to remove sediment in the 1,250-foot channel leading from Lake St. Claire to the Lac Sainte Claire Marina at 11 Mile Road.

Saying the move is necessary “in order to have the marina functional this year,” John Chown of Anderson, Eckstein and Westrick told City Council that the low bidder for the job — out of two bids — was Dean Marine and Excavating.

The maximum amount the city can dredge, based on permits pulled from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, is 2,400 cubic yards, which would cost the maximum  price of just under $76,000.

“We would take out just as much as necessary in order to allow ingress and egress to the marina,” Chown said.

Dredging would begin about the first week of April and take about two-and-a-half weeks to complete, said Parks and Recreation Director Greg Esler. What is removed will go straight into a truck and be hauled away, he said.

They hope the dredging, along with referral incentives and new features like Wi-Fi at the marina, will bring more business to the boat slips. The harbor was about half full in 2012.

“It’s a tough business right now,” Esler said.

He said they shouldn’t have to dredge at the Nine Mile Boat Ramp or Blossom Heath Marina this year.

The St. Clair Shores Parks and Recreation Department will also have a display at the Spring Boating Expo at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi for the first time this year to drum up business, and Esler said the fact that many local canals are getting shallow could mean more business for city ramps and wells, too. 

He told City Council that user fees pay for the expenses to dredge the canal.

“In ’07 we dredged, and there was definitely a surplus of revenues over expenses and same thing in ’11,” he said March 4. “We’re doing what we can to get the marina to its capacity.”

He said they would be sending a letter out soon to previous boat well renters, alerting them to the dredging in the hopes of having them re-sign for 2013. There are 236 slips in the Lac Sainte Claire Marina.

Revenue from the boat ramps and the marina at Blossom Heath help subsidize the 11 Mile Road marina, said acting City Manager Mike Smith. He said they “anticipate a positive cash flow in marina operations … of about $100,000.”

And Mayor Kip Walby said that, although there are still a few years left on the bond payment for the marina, St. Clair Shores plans to pay it off as early as this year to save upwards of $70,000-$80,000 in interest payments.

The motion to approve the dredging passed City Council unanimously.

But not everyone was happy about the expenditure.

“I just don’t see how we can continue to spend in these numbers to satisfy the small numbers of people who use that harbor,” said resident Chuck Hall.

Not doing the work would make the problem worse, though, said City Councilman Peter Rubino.

“If we look at just this one, we’re going to be in the red, but if we don’t dredge, we’re going to be a lot more in the red,” he said.