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St. Joe Harbor dredging strengthens economy

Congressman Fred Upton and local leaders explained Monday just how impactful regular dredging of the Saint Joseph Harbor is for Berrien County.

“Using the money, frankly, from the Harbor Maintenance Fund keeps our communities alive, and obviously, a huge impact on jobs,” said Upton, who represents Michigan’s 6th District.

At Dock 63 in Benton Harbor, mountains of gravel stand next to a supply of road salt.

All of it was brought to Berrien County thanks to the water.

“The last boat that came in brought in 400 truckloads in one single load,” said Pete Berghoff, the owner of Dock 63.

Upton explained Monday that the more shipments that can come to Berrien County, the more federal funding for dredging becomes available.

“They rank these harbors based on tonnage that comes in,” Upton said. “So if it’s not dredged – if you have a bad year, the next year you have a lower rating.”

“Right now we’re lucky that the water is high,” said Kathy Myers. “But it’s not going to stay forever.”

Myers is the owner of the Pier 1000 Marina in Benton Harbor.

She said she’s happy the Saint Joseph Harbor will be dredged again in the next few weeks.

Her customers come to the harbor to relax, and in turn, they fund the local economy.

Myers said dredging matters for recreational boaters because the bigger the boat, the more of it is under the water.

“Some boats have to have six feet underneath them, and you know, there’s some portions – when the sand silts up and we have a lot of storms, you can end up with less than that.”

Upton works with the Army Corps of Engineers each year to fight for more federal funding.

It’s an investment in the county that local leaders and business owners agree is key.

“It helps shipping. It helps pleasure-boating. And all around, it’s a good thing for the area,” Myers said.

The ship that delivered the most recent load of gravel was the first in 15 years to bring 20,000 tons of goods to the harbor in one trip.

Dredging is set to begin in about four weeks.

The sand taken out of the outer harbor will be used to replenish nearby Lions Beach.

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