Great Lakes Memorial Marina in Menominee opens for the season today. If all goes according to plan, the long-awaited dredging project will begin as the season wraps up in October. <br> EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Great Lakes Memorial Marina in Menominee opens for the season today. If all goes according to plan, the long-awaited dredging project will begin as the season wraps up in October.
EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
MENOMINEE - Today is the opening day of the season for Great Lakes Memorial Marina in Menominee but so far there hasn't been much in the way of warm, sunny sailing weather.

There are however some friendly winds that may be blowing that way courtesy of the state of Michigan. The state plans on funding $21 million worth of dredging projects and Menominee is on the list of recipients.

The marina has been dealing with a situation all to common to port cities - low water levels. The combination of low water on Lake Michigan and Green Bay plus the build up of silt, makes it difficult for larger boats to use the marina for docking. Larger boats, or those with fixed keels, can easily bottom out.

Shoreline communities depend heavily on tourism dollars brought in by boat owners which is one of the main reasons the state is ramping up its efforts.

"Basically what the state has done is to issue an emergency order and transfer funds from other operations, waterways funds for the most part, into the emergency dredging fund in which the city of Menominee is one of the possible recipients," said City Manager Michael Cramer.

The city is already a few steps ahead of other communities because all of its engineering reports, studies, permits and bid specs have been completed. Sealed bids should be coming back soon.

"I'm confident and I've talked with several of the people there (state of Michigan) that we would most likely be the first ones putting in our agreements and getting everything finalized for the project," said Cramer. "We should get all of the funding we need for this project."

According to a 2007 survey, the estimated cost to dredge the marina was $2.1 million. But in order to receive 100 percent funding from the state, the city must sign a Waterways Grant Agreement.

Leon Felch, a member of the Public Safety/Public Works Committee questioned whether there was anything in the agreement that contradicted the way the city currently does business. It turns out there is something. The city would be restricted in how it uses money collected as part of the operation of the marina. That means slip fees, concessions, fuel sales, etc.

"In the past they (the state of Michigan) recommended it only be used for the marina. However, we have used it for other aspects in the past," explained Cramer. "At that point, it was appropriate. They're now putting into this agreement language that states that we'll only be using the fund balance for any revenue associated to the marina for marina activities. So that is a change in general."

The exact language in the agreement reads, "Any net revenues accruing from the operation of the facilities shall be separately accounted for and reserved in a restricted fund by the city for the future maintenance or expansion of the facility or, with the department's approval, for the construction of other recreational boating facilities."

This has been a sore point in the past when the city used money collected at the marina to pay off the renovation of Spies Athletic Field. Under this new agreement something like that could not happen. That's welcome news to Jim Kudlicki, the head of the Marina Management Group.

"I'm pleased to hear that," he said. "It assures that we can continue on with other projects that are on the horizon that would help develop the facility for the city."

If all goes according to plan, dredging will begin in October once the boating season ends and should wrap up in December.