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Great Lakes Article:

Army Corps cutting back on dredging
By Pete Mackin
The Mining Journal
Published April 20, 2005

MARQUETTE - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will end dredging and maintenance of harbors with annual commerce of less than a million tons if President George Bush's funding proposal stands.

The president has proposed cutting a half billion dollars from the corps' current $4.71 billion budget, leaving $4.21 billion for 2006 operations. The plan still needs congressional approval.
If the plan became permanent, it could have a dramatic effect on smaller harbors and inlets across the Great Lakes and along the Mississippi River. Two commercial harbors in the Upper Peninsula - Ontonagon and Menominee - would be affected.

"I would presume, after a while (small harbors) would become unusable to commercial marine traffic," said Wayne Schloop, the corps' chief of operations for Detroit.

Schloop said the corps is trying to work within "what we refer to as performance-based budgeting."

"(Under this plan) any harbor that's below a million tons does not get dredged," he said.

Currently one ship is capable of entering the Ontonagon River from Lake Superior to deliver coal to a 60-megawatt power plant and Smurfit-Stone Container, the cardboard box company that is the county's top employer.

"We get our coal in by ship. There used to be tracks, but those were removed," said the corporation's general manager, Chris Broome.

Broome said the lost of coal deliveries by ship would hurt the mill's viability.

"We're already at a disadvantage with shipping costs, higher than any other mill in our company," he said.

The community is also in the middle of a $24 million state and federal project to move a U.S. Highway 45 bridge upriver to allow more ships into the harbor.

The river dumps sediment into the small harbor; roughly 200,000 to 300,000 tons of product are unloaded at the dock annually. Shipping over land could force an estimated 100-plus-percent increase in freight charges for these and other businesses in the county, which has little else but a state park for major employment.

"For sure it would drive up the cost of transportation," said local Economic Development Corporation Director Dorothy Bussiere. "It does have the potential to close down businesses."

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