While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers originally built Michigan’s Leland Township Harbor in as a “harbor of refuge” the government agency has lately failed to provide the manpower or funding to keep the harbor dredged and safe for vessels.
The city itself was developed in the 1800s as a port for the iron mining and lumber industries in the area which used Lake Michigan as a water route to the Port of Chicago Leland was an important cog in the Michigan economy. Over the past century Leland’s role along Lake Michigan changed and it became a summer boating Mecca and a harbor of refuge during inclement weather for boaters on Lake Michigan. Today the Leland Harbor Marina built in 1966 is surrounded by local shops and restaurants and is in great demand for local and visiting boaters.
Leland Harbor’s entrance channel and slips fill in with shifting sand and silt. For many decades the harbor contracted dredging services to keep the marina clear at permitted depths often with funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. According to Tony Borden Harbor Commissioner Leland Harbor has had to dredge its harbor mouth and channel 49 times in the last 53 years. “The ACOE used to dredge it routinely with contractors but a lack of funding eliminated that. The State of Michigan has helped a few times too” he said. In 2012 the harbor paid for its own dredging at a cost of almost $130000. In 2013 the State of Michigan provided assistance at a cost of $192000. And in 2014 the Corps was able to help fund contract dredging at a cost of $177000. “Last year Michigan offered matching funds to Leland but even with that we could not get a dredge here in time to help us during our peak season” Borden said.
With no dredging taking place in 2015 and 2016 the harbor had silted completely shut by January 2017. But the community of Leland had already decided in the summer of 2016 to take matters into its own hands. The harbor had approximately $250000 in financial reserves when it chose to purchase a new 10-inch Wolverine Class cutter suction hydraulic dredge manufactured at DSC Dredge’s Greenbush Michigan facility. With another $250000 required to purchase the dredge the town created a crowdfunding site in December 2016 and the donations began to roll in – so quickly that it was able to raise the full amount required in less than a month. Taking delivery of its Wolverine dredge in mid-April 2017 a crew of Leland township employees received training for a week so that they can now rely upon their own resources – at a minimal annual cost – to keep the harbor cleared.
The dredge is compact yet still allows for a wide cut to fit the project plans and specifications for Leland Harbor Marina. Fully functional with just one operator the 68-foot-long Wolverine can reach dredging depths down to 25 feet below the surface and allows for maximum particle clearance of 6 inches. It offers single-truck portability in almost every geographical location.