ALPENA -The emergency dredging project for the Alpena boat harbor is finally about to commence after a string of logistically delays.
The city, which received over $800,000 from the State of Michigan to have the work done, had hoped the project would begin in July after the Michigan Brown Trout Festival, but sample testing snafus and winds over Lake Huron, caused a delay.
Harbor Master Don Gilmet said some digging in the harbor began Wednesday, but the project would really pick up speed next week.
"They should be rolling in Wednesday morning and they will take a few scoops to check the consistency and how watery it is," Gilmet said. "They will probably dig enough to get their equipment in place and then things should really amp up Monday."
Gilmet said the plan was to have the work completed by now, but the city needed to submit samples of the lakes bottom to see what the best method of disposal was.
"We had to get the sentiment tested to see if it was contaminated and the DNR requested more samples," Gilmet said. "In the end we didn't need to have it hauled to a landfill that handles contaminated materials and we got approval to move forward."
The materials removed from the harbor will be moved via truck and dumped on property owned by the city on US-23 North, where Gilmet said other piles of dirt are now stored.
The depth of water in harbors in many lakeside communities have been an issue for several years, as the water depths in the Great Lakes continue to dwindle. In Alpena larger sailboats were forced to dock in the Thunder Bay River due to how shallow areas in the harbor had become. Gilmet said the workers will do their best to accommodate boaters while the work is being done, but said he doesn't expect a lot of traffic because fall has set in and many people have removed their boats from the water.
There are still some fishermen that may go out, but they can launch behind the post office," Gilmet said. "The workers will also have Coast Guard radios on them, because we are a refuge shelter and if there is some bad weather or an emergency they will be able to let boats in. They just won't be able to stop what they are doing every ten minutes to move the curtain to let recreational boaters in and out."
Gilmet said a large net, or curtain will be in place that will keep the mud and sand from seeping into areas that will not be dredged, or into places where work already was done. Each time a boat wants to enter or exit, it will have to be moved.
Another issue that delayed the contractor who will do the dredging work was the high winds and waves on the lake. Gilmet said the workers were assembled and ready to locate to Alpena to begin work, but the weather wasn't conducive to moving the barge and equipment.
"When you have sustained winds of 20 miles per hour blowing down the lake it can make it pretty rough," Gilmet said. "They weren't able to head out until the conditions improved. I think things should move ahead now and I'm hopeful everything can be finished by the end of October."
Gilmet said at no point was he concerned the work might not get done this year and delays in projects of this size happen often.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.