Low-water levels in the Kalamazoo River harbor.
SAUGATUCK, Mich. (WZZM) -- People concerned about the low water levels along Lake Michigan and its harbors are forming what they call an emergency plan to deal with it.
The Saugatuck-Douglas Harbor Authority is asking local taxpayers to step into help and pay for dredging the harbors in the Kalamazoo River.
Despite many empty docks and low-water levels, Robert Sapita, chairman of the Harbor Authority, says the boating industry could make a come back in the Saugatuck and Douglas area.
"We realize we'll have to fund this somewhat on our own," says Sapita.
Sapita wants both cities to approve a $2 million project, which includes dredging the primary channels and asking private harbors to meet halfway.
"That would then allow people along the shoreline to connect like they would with a driveway, to connect with their own private dredging to connect with these primary channels," says Sapita.
According to the Army Corps of Engineers, 18 harbors along the Lakeshore are in the same boat. Some of the hardest hit by low-water levels are New Buffalo, Leeland, Arcadia, Pentwater, and South Haven.
"Every harbor is a foot lower than they normally would be and the smaller harbors are even worse off because they haven't been dredged," says Chris Scropp, chief of construction for the Army Corps of Engineers in Grand Haven.
Sapita says becoming a Harbor Authority allows the area to have greater political influence and makes it easier to find ways of funding.
"As an authority we can own and lease property and do bonding and so on, to try and raise money," says Sapita.
Federal dollars only go to harbors which carry a million tons of cargo a year. The Army Corps of Engineers says its working closely with congressional representatives on the Lakeshore.
"They're aware of what we're experiencing here and they're working at it," says Schropp.
The Harbor Authority's plan would likely need maintanence every five years.
"Dredging is a band aid to the problem," says Sapita.
Sapita says advanced engineering is needed for a long-term solution.
The Harbor Authority will present the plan to the Douglas and Saugatuck city councils on Tuesday. If it passes, dredging could begin in July.