The dirt on dredging: Helping Michigan marinas navigate the permitting process

Consultations to explain the process for obtaining dredging permits and to discuss potential projects are being offered to marina managers at the 2013 Recreational Boating Educational Conference on December 5 at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center.

Marinas located on the Great Lakes need certain permissions from federal and state agencies to maintain or improve their facilities. One type of maintenance that many marinas need is dredging.  Dredging is required for the channel that leads to the entrance of the marina as well within the interior of the marina. This dredging allows boats to enter the facility as well as moor at the docks without running aground. With Great Lakes water levels below average and some lakes potentially hitting all-time lows in 2013, the number of marinas that need to consider dredging projects to ensure that they stay in business can be expected to increase, and many of them are unfamiliar with the process.

Applying for dredge and fill permits so marinas can perform maintenance dredging can be difficult and confusing, considering the many regulations enforced by federal and state agencies. Additionally, dredging is only allowed in certain months of the year, and it is important to plan so the entire project can be completed on time. At the federal level, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) is responsible for regulating dredge and fill activities that occur in waters of the United States, as required under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. In addition, the Corps regulates the maintenance and placement of certain structures (like piers or bulkheads) that have the potential to impact navigability of waters of the United States under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act. In Michigan, the Water Resources Division of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regulates several activities where land and water meet in Michigan; a complete list of them can be found on the Division’s website. Fortunately, there is a Joint Permitting Process in place in Michigan, which prevents those applying for permits from having to fill out multiple permit applications.   

On December 5, 2012, representatives from the Corps, Michigan DEQ, Michigan Sea Grant, and Michigan State University Extension will be available to sit down, one-on-one, with marina owners and operators to discuss the permitting process, as well as provide feedback for any projects being considered at the facility. Registration for the Recreational Boating Educational Conference is required and can be completed online or by printing out the registration form, which needs to be faxed or mailed in to complete the registration process. More information on how to register can be found by visiting the Michigan Boating Industries Association website.

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