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Grosse Pointes

Yacht Club, Neff Park among local harbors being dredged

April 16, 2013

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The Grosse Pointe Yacht Club harbor will undergo dredging this spring in preparation for the upcoming boating season.

GROSSE POINTES — Historically low water levels have created the need for dredging at harbors across the state, and the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club is among the many private and public marinas that are trying to improve conditions for boaters this summer.

By the end of March, Lake St. Clair had fallen 14.4 inches from where it was just one year ago, and it’s only 2 feet higher than the record low set in 1934, GPYC officials said. By contrast, they said the lake reached its record high in 1986, when it was 4 feet higher than it is now.

Providing adequate water depth levels and a safe harbor are key reasons to undertake dredging this season, and the project should start soon, GPYC Commodore William C. Vogel Jr. said in an interview via email. He said they’re anticipating the removal of about 2,500 cubic yards of material from the lake, which will be taken by barge to an approved disposal site.

“We have been dredging over the past several years and will continue to do so as needed,” Vogel said. “We have conducted soundings where we have measured the water depth and have identified some areas of the harbor that we will focus on this year.”

The dredging follows recent harbor renovations at the club that included the installation of five 95-foot boat wells. Club officials said the dredging will come at no extra cost to GPYC members. The 99-year-old GPYC is rated as a Platinum Club of America, and club officials want to preserve what Vogel said is a “fine facility.”

“Part of our mission statement reads, the GPYC will ‘continue to be a premier yacht club, amongst the finest in North America,’” Vogel said. “It is our goal to maintain that standard and accommodate our vessels from 30 to 130 feet.”

The low water level situation is so bad statewide that Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation in late March to provide $21 million for 58 harbor dredging projects considered to be “emergencies.”

However, the funds won’t help harbors in the Pointes — even those belonging to the cities.

Grosse Pointe City — whose Neff Park marina is the site of dredging this spring — can’t take advantage of the state money. As Parks and Recreation Director Christopher Hardenbrook said by email, “Unfortunately, the Grosse Pointes are not eligible for this funding” because it’s only for public marinas. The Pointe parks are only open to residents of their respective communities and guests of those residents.

At an April 15 City Council meeting, City Manager Pete Dame announced that the City had gotten approval for the dredging from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He said the project should start next week.

“It should take about a week, weather permitting,” Dame said.

Some other cities said they don’t plan on dredging this season, including Grosse Pointe Shores, whose harbor is adjacent to the GPYC.

“We (re-did) our whole harbor in ’08. … We think we’re (still) in pretty good shape,” Shores Harbormaster Tom Krolczyk said.

Grosse Pointe Farms is in a similar situation: City Manager Shane Reeside said they conducted Pier Park harbor renovations and dredging in 2006. In addition, he said water levels in Lake St. Clair have risen about 6 inches since February, “and we anticipate that water levels will continue to rise through the end of June,” as that’s the typical pattern.

“At this point, Grosse Pointe Farms doesn’t have any intentions of dredging this spring,” Reeside said. “In February, the city took over 100 depth water soundings within the harbor. Based upon the soundings and the 6-inch (water level) rise, we’re not anticipating problems for powerboaters.”

Residents with larger boats — especially sailboats with keels — could be facing some challenges, however. With that in mind, Reeside said the Parks and Recreation Department was sending a memo to all harbor boaters, telling them that if they believe their boat’s large draft could be an issue, they should contact officials at the park and let them know. Those boats could possibly be moved to another slip in the harbor, he said.

Reeside said the Farms would be doing some dredging at their water intake, which is roughly a quarter of a mile outside of the park, so they might also undertake some spot dredging in the harbor at that time, if it’s deemed necessary.

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