Weighing environmental, economic impacts of dredging


Current State logoDredging by EmanueleB


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This year record low water levels have spurred the Michigan government to spend over $20 million on dredging. Many hope dredging will enable recreational and commercial boating to continue, preventing revenue loss.

However, the plan could still cost Michiganders. Dredging can stir up contaminated sediments, causing environmental and health issues. Michael Alexander works for the Department of Environmental Quality’s Water Resources Division. He’s explains that the DEQ is working to find a balance between environmental disruptions and economic concerns.

Related story elsewhere on Echo.

2 thoughts on “Weighing environmental, economic impacts of dredging

  1. Sadly, Lakes Huron and Michigan are suffering “death by a thousand cuts” as many interests compete for water resources. Add to that Mother Nature’s exacting a huge toll on the “water budget” for the entire Great Lakes basin.

    It is crucial for society to understand each of these impacts and to intelligently determine which ones can be addressed. There are some impacts which can be addressed immediately. There are some which may take decades (or generations) to correct. There are also some impacts for which answers are currently beyond our reach. We must be wise enough to understand them and act appropriately.

    One significant impact, which human activity caused and which human interaction can correct, is the excessive outflow into the St. Clair River. There historic dredging and bottom-mining have essentially “pulled the plug” from the Huron-Michigan basin and allowed trillions of gallons of outflow to occur beyond what would naturally occur.

    The initial dredging and mining was only the tip of the iceberg – once the bottom was disturbed by those activities, erosion took over, essentially doubling what was the natural outflow from those lakes.

    While State and Federal dollars may be expended to dredge harbors and channels, that activity merely addresses a symptom of the problem and not the problem itself. For probably a fraction of the cost of dredging, the bottom of the St. Clair River could be stabilized and returned to its natural outflow, including temporary downstream measures to assure that no harm is done to Lakes Erie and Ontario.

    We need to think sensibly and address the problems that we can, rather than masking the problem by Band-Aid solutions for symptoms.

  2. Perhaps it is time that the Great Lake States propose a “moratorium” on the extraction of groundwater by those companies that market the resource as “bottled water”. The moratorium could be used when the water levels drop below an “accepted” threshold and lifted once the lake levels reach a sustainable level again.[Based on my understanding that Nestle North America is still extracting ~218 gallons per minute.]

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