Battle lines drawn in Lansing over dredging
A battle over how to pay for emergency harbor dredging is brewing in Lansing. State Senator John Moolenaar (R-Midland) is sponsoring a bill that would explicitly identify harbor dredging as a proper use of funding from the state's National Resources Trust Fund.
He says, “when it comes to recreational access to use our tremendous assets that we have in Michigan, we believe this is consistent, but we wanted to spell it out in state law.”
Environmental groups are criticizing the plan. They say it would threaten the state’s ability to buy and improve parks and public land.
Hugh McDiarmid of the Michigan Environmental Council admits record-low water levels in the Great Lakes mean emergency dredging is necessary. But he says there are better ways to pay for it than raiding the Natural Resources Trust Fund.
“Diverting money to dredge harbors,” he says, “would hurt communities around the state who wouldn’t have that money available for their parks and their recreational facilities.”
McDiarmid adds long-term harbor maintenance costs could drain the fund completely. “Maybe purchasing land to create a new harbor would be a more appropriate use of the trust fund”, he says. “You know, some big investment like that rather than routine maintenance that would bleed the trust fund every year, and really should come from another source.”
Governor Rick Snyder is asking for more than $20 million for emergency harbor dredging in his proposed budget. That money would not come out of the Natural Resources Trust Fund.