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Lafarge eyes port improvements, collaboration with city

News Photo by Julie Riddle Jeff Scott, plant manager at the Lafarge Alpena Plant, explains planned improvements to the company’s port, pending a possible federal grant.

ALPENA — If the City of Alpena gives a thumbs-up to a proposed project, the Lafarge Alpena Plant could improve its port and provide a service to the community, to the tune of several million dollars from the federal government.

Talks between the Alpena company and the city could result in the city’s submission of a grant application, on Lafarge’s behalf, to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration, which awards shipping-related grants. The grant sought by Lafarge — which could net the company $5 million or more — must be publicly sponsored and requires that the recipient also pay a portion of the project, according to Jeff Scott, Lafarge plant manager.

The grant would fund improvements to one port at the Alpena facility. A separate port, not included in the proposed project, is used to load the freighter Alpena and other vessels.

No substantial improvements have been made to the port named in the planned project since 1964, Scott said. The grant, if approved, would allow Lafarge to remove old buildings and a dock where trains brought limestone from the quarry to be loaded on ships 100 years ago.

The port’s century-old wooden walls need a facelift, said Scott, who hopes the grant will fund that improvement and the dredging of buildup in the port.

Should the city approve the project and submit an application to the granting body, the potential improvements would benefit not only Lafarge but the city and the environment, as well, Scott said.

With the changes would come a capacity to welcome longer boats carrying larger loads. Currently, Lafarge can only accept ships with a capacity of up to 17,000 tons. After improvements, Lafarge could move the same amount of material as usual in half as many ships, reducing its carbon dioxide footprint, Scott said.

The improved port would be open to public vessels when not in use by Lafarge and could benefit the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Scott said.

City leadership is excited about the potential improvements and access to the port, according to Alpena Mayor Matt Waligora.

“Anything that helps the city and helps Lafarge at the same time is a good thing,” Waligora said.

The Maritime Administration should notify grant recipients by the end of the year, and work on the port could take place next year, Scott said.

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