Senate committee OKs Booher dredging measure

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LANSING— Legislation sponsored by Sen. Darwin Booher to require regular state dredging assessments of Michigan public harbors was approved on Tuesday by the Senate Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Committee.

“Healthy harbors are important to supporting thousands of local jobs and ensuring Michigan families and tourists have recreational access to our wonderful lakes and rivers,” said Booher, R-Evart. “My bill is part of a comprehensive, long-term solution to our harbor maintenance issues by regularly having the state assess the dredging and infrastructure needs of our public harbors.”

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.

“To meet the demands of communities seeking dredging assistance, it’s critical that the state have an assessment protocol in place that verifies the funding requests for these needed improvements,” said Sen. Goeff Hansen, chairman of the Senate Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Committee.

Other dredging-related measures approved by the Senate include: Senate Bill 218 to restore the waterfront tax increment finance authority (TIFA) to provide local financing options for dredging; and SB 252 to create a new low-interest loan program for financing of dredging projects at private marina facilities.

Booher noted that this week’s action follows Senate approval last week of nearly $21 million in state funding for emergency dredging of Michigan harbors. The funding includes more than $2.9 million for dredging in five harbors in the 35th Senate District.

“I have visited harbors in Northern Michigan where low water levels and federal inaction are putting at risk millions of dollars in local economic activity,” said Booher, a member of the Legislative Waterways Caucus. “I am committed to putting in place both short- and long-term plans to help manage and maintain our ports for shipping and recreational boating. We must act to meet our immediate dredging needs and also ensure our harbors are open for years to come.”

Senate Bill 243 was sent to the full Senate for consideration.

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