The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved $1.2 million in emergency dredging to re-open the Saginaw River to shipping. This year’s heavy spring rains sent sediment down the river and restricted shipping to and from businesses in Saginaw County and the Region. Prior to the excessive rain, the Saginaw River turning basin was in the best condition it has been in over 30 years. However, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined that as a direct result of the recent flooding, the basin is once again filled with silt, to the point that it is closed to shipping traffic.

Dock owners, along with the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce and Saginaw Future Inc., asked Congressional and State Legislative Delegations to support decisive action for emergency dredging. In addition, six State Department Heads encouraged immediate assistance and the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance also supported the funding request. Quick assistance was needed, because the actual dredging could not take place until 60 days after approval by the Army Corps of Engineers.

“We are very appreciative of the Army Corps of Engineers decisive action to dredge the Saginaw River and reopen shipping to vital businesses in Saginaw and the Great Lakes Bay Region,” said U.S. Senator Carl Levin. “Goods shipped on the river include coal that powers electric generators, cement and aggregate that is needed to complete the I-75 highway resurfacing project, and limestone, potash, grain and other raw materials to supply businesses along the river.”

There was a major concern that if the Saginaw River Basin was not reopened, the Region and the State could lose the river for commerce, much like the Missouri River was lost after large floods 10 years ago. The river is a major Michigan shipping route listed as the second busiest port for exports.

“The Saginaw River is a crucial part of our economic infrastructure and must be maintained,” said Michigan State Senator Roger Kahn. “The river is a unique asset that connects Saginaw County and the Great Lakes Bay Region to the rest of the world.”

The Corps of Engineers has already advertised the emergency dredging contract and are expecting to award the project on or before June 28, 2013, with the actual dredging starting in July.

Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce President Bob Van Deventer stated, “It was amazing how quickly leaders and organizations came together to support this much-needed project. We want to thank Senators Stabenow and Levin and Congressmen Kildee and Camp as well as our State Legislative Delegation, Senators Kahn, Moolenaar and Green and Representatives Cotter, Stamas, Kelly, Brunner and Erwin Oakes. Governor Rick Snyder, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance also provided much needed support.”

William G. Webber, President of Sargent Docks and member of the Saginaw River Alliance stated, “We are so grateful to the Saginaw Chamber and Saginaw Future for partnering with the Saginaw River Alliance to encourage the Army Corps of Engineers to award the emergency dredging funds. This could have been a disastrous outcome, but instead, we will be able to open the River to commerce once again.”

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