The town of Leland has raised $250,000 to buy its own dredging equipment. The money comes from private donations through the crowd-funding website FundLy.
Leland Harbormaster Russell Dzuba says the federal government used to pay for harbor dredging, but in recent years, it hasn’t been a priority.
“We’ve been going through this fire drill for the last 15 years, where you get into January and you start digging around, trying to raise money to get dredged,” says Dzuba. “Whether you’re screaming at your legislators in Washington or in Michigan, relying on charity just doesn’t work.”
In 2014, Congress authorized the gradual return of dredging funds between through 2025 but in the meantime, Dzuba says the Leland harbor hasn’t been dredged in two years – and it’s now completely closed.
“The ducks got to walk in here. They can’t even swim in here. They have to walk over the sandbar,” says Dzuba. “We’ve never seen this in history. This harbor has been here since 1964 and it’s never been as plugged up with sand as it is right now.”
Dzuba says the closure of the harbor affects fisherman, Manitou Island ferries and boats operated by the National Park Service.
He says the dredging equipment should arrive next month, and dredging should be completed by May 15th.