House OKs bills to speed up dredging projects

LANSING – State Reps. John Kivela, D-Marquette, and Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, voted Thursday in favor of House Bills 4398-4440, a package of legislation that makes changes to the Department of Environmental Quality’s dredging permit process.

The bills would lower fees for some dredging projects and let emergency projects bypass a waiting period. Dredging is the removal of sediments so water is deep enough for boats and barges.

“Providing an expedited process to carry out an emergency dredging project is critical to guaranteeing lake access to not only residents of the Upper Peninsula, but the thousands of tourists we attract up here,” Kivela said. “Our waters are what make our state great and I’m extremely pleased with the House passing this important legislation.”

The bills let the DEQ issue emergency permits when property or residents’ safety is at risk. Currently, permits can’t be issued until after a 20-day objection period. One of the bills would reduce some dredging permit fees from $1,500 to $50.

“This legislation lessens the burden and speeds up the process for small businesses performing necessary dredging,” Dianda said. “Cutting red tape and substantially lessening fees will prove beneficial for northern Michigan bays and harbors during the upcoming busy shipping and tourism season.”

The House bills now go to the Senate for consideration.

A bill approved in the Senate would let marinas pay low interest rates for loans for emergency dredging projects.