Booher dredging bill approved by Senate

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LANSING — The Michigan Senate on Wednesday approved Sen. Darwin Booher’s legislation requiring regular state dredging assessments of Michigan public harbors and specifying that more waterways dollars be used for dredging or projects that are critical for water use and access. 

“Harbors that are open, safe and accessible are vitally important to the Michigan economy and Michigan jobs,” said Booher, R-Evart. “Our harbors are facing significant access issues due to low water levels and the failure of the federal government to do its job. This dredging problem is affecting more than just our shipping ports; it’s also impacting recreational harbors — where thousands of local jobs rely on boaters having access to Michigan lakes and rivers.”

Booher’s measure, Senate Bill 243, would require the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to conduct an assessment of the state’s public harbors every three years to determine the need for dredging and infrastructure improvements.

“By having the state regularly assess the dredging and infrastructure needs of our public harbors, we can help meet the needs of boaters, shippers and our communities for years to come,” said Booher, a member of the Legislative Waterways Caucus. “Importantly, my bill is only part of a comprehensive plan to solve our harbor maintenance issues in both the short and long term.” 

Other Senate-approved dredging measures include Senate Bill 218, to restore the waterfront tax increment finance authority (TIFA) to provide local financing options for dredging, and Public Act 10 of 2013, which created a new low-interest dredging loan program.

In March, the governor signed Booher’s bill to use nearly $21 million in state funding for emergency dredging of Michigan harbors. The funding in PA 9 of 2013 included more than $2.9 million for dredging in five harbors in the 35th Senate District.

SB 243 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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