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Grosse Pointe City

Neff Park harbor channel to be dredged this spring

March 13, 2013

GROSSE POINTE CITY — Residents who dock their boats at the Neff Park marina can expect somewhat smoother sailing conditions this summer.

To address low lake levels, the marina will be dredged this spring. One cubic yard of lake bottom material is supposed to be removed as part of the dredging, Parks and Recreation Director Christopher Hardenbrook said during a Feb. 25 City Council meeting.

“Lake St. Clair levels are significantly down,” said Hardenbrook, adding that these lower levels are expected to continue. Last year, he said several sailboats hit the lake bottom in the harbor.

The focus of dredging is at the southern part of the access channel to the marina, a 400-foot-long area that begins roughly 300 feet from the marina’s entrance and extends about 400 feet into the lake, according to the City’s engineers with Anderson, Eckstein and Westrick Inc.

“Ideally, we’re going to gain 1 foot within the channel,” Hardenbrook said.

The amount of dredging needed varies. Overall, Hardenbrook estimated it’s about a foot of material, but it might be 2 feet in some spots and half a foot in others.

“There’s spots where it’s bad and there’s other spots where it’s fine,” Mayor Dale Scrace said.

The City got a permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in late February that found that the sediments in the harbor weren’t contaminated and therefore wouldn’t need to be disposed of in a special site designated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Hardenbrook said. As a result, the City was able to get a lower price on the work. Mount Clemens-based Dean Marine & Excavating Inc. offered to do the dredging for $21,232 — almost $7,000 less than the contractor the City had planned on using. City Manager Pete Dame said Dean Marine was able to give them such a low bid because the contractor will be doing the City work between dredging projects already scheduled this spring in St. Clair Shores and at the Detroit Yacht Club — both of which are much larger than the City’s.

“I think this is actually a great deal,” said Dame, adding that it was better than if the City had bid the contract out by itself.

Work is slated to start at the end of April at the latest but is likely to begin before then, Hardenbrook said.

Some City leaders were concerned about the start and completion dates of this project.

“Theoretically, it would be done before the park opens (Memorial Day weekend)?” City Council member Donald Pathum asked.

Hardenbrook responded, “Absolutely.” Although the marina opens April 1, most boaters don’t put their watercrafts into the harbor until May, he said.

Because the project wasn’t part of the 2012-13 budget, the City Council had to approve a budget amendment, as well as the bidder, which they did unanimously. Dame said the marina fund ended the last fiscal year with a surplus of about $13,000, and “We’re on track to be the same or better this year. … That alone will cover the cost of dredging.”

Boaters who rent wells at Neff Park were slated to be personally notified about the dredging in a mailing that Hardenbrook said was supposed to go out March 1.

Low water levels are such a widespread problem that the governor declared an emergency for Michigan harbors this year, City officials said. Many other cities, including Grosse Pointe Woods, are also dredging their harbors this season.

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