SAINT JOSEPH - A ship stuck in the Saint Joseph Harbor this week is raising concerns about the future local commercial boating industry.
The Manitowoc, a commercial ship that's made the voyage through Saint Joseph Harbor many times before, got stuck Tuesday carrying more than 12,000 tons of limestone 70 yards off the pier heads in Lake Michigan.
The water level should be 21-feet-deep but the boat went down 18-feet and hit the bottom. Larry LaValley, Saint Joseph’s Harbormaster said everyone in the industry noticed. "If it gets bad enough they can’t come in here at all," he said.
LaValley is also the former superintendent of Lafarge, one of the largest commercial shippers in the area.
Lafarge imports about 5000 semi-truck loads of raw material into the harbor every year. They and other shipping companies in the harbor bring in a major portion of all the raw material that’s used here. They move everything from construction material to the salt we use on our roads.
"Dock 63 is looking for three boatloads of salt to get them through the winter with what happened three days ago we don't know if they going to get one,” said LaValley. What’s worse for companies like Lafarge is next year there is no fix. Dredging the harbor was cut from the federal budget.
"The federal government really has to look at this from a reasonable standpoint," said State Senator John Proos. This week Proos sponsored a resolution this week to change the way dredging is funded.
The resolution supports dredging being funded by the tax money shippers pay when they go into port. "The money is sitting there and in this case the money itself is already paid for by the shippers as part of the surcharge and fees they pay to come into port,” he said.
The reason dredging was cut for 2012 is because funding for the Army Corps of Engineers was cut by the federal government. The Army Corps usually funds the dredging.
For now, LaValley said companies like Lafarge can carry lighter loads to get by but the situation is getting increasingly dire. "It will get worse and whether or not a boat will get in, in the spring is anyone's guess," he said.
Photos provided by Lee Benson.