Portage Lake “At Risk” Channel Awarded Millions In Grant Money For Repairs

"If something would have happened, it would have been devastating to the community."

The crumbling walls of a channel connecting a community to Lake Michigan just got a big influx of support.

The Army Corps of Engineers approved more than $6 million in grant money to help save the channel in Onekama.

The Portage Lake Harbor Commission has pushed to keep the channel from falling apart since 2007.

9&10’s Cody Boyer and photojournalist Jeff Blakeman spoke with the Harbor Commission chair and have more details.

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It’s a struggle that was first spotted when the Portage Lake Harbor Commission started 10 years ago.

It has taken 10 years.

Now, they say a grant of $6.25 million from the Army Corps of Engineers will change everything.

“Without that access to the Lake Michigan channel, the economy of the community would be in shambles,” says Jim Mrozinski, chairman of the Portage Lake Harbor Commission.

The channel linking Onekama to Lake Michigan is listed as "at risk" of collapse.

The chair of the Harbor Commission says things were looking bleak.

“We’d be in a pretty heavy crisis situation because of the channel walls, they were in danger of failing,” Mrozinski says. “The Corps of Engineers knew that and they were trying to do all they could to get us funding but we didn’t anticipate funding was going to come at this time."

“It’s a huge deal,” says David Meister, Onekama Township Supervisor. “It is from the federal government. It’s something that we have been after for 10 to 12 years since they started working on the channel and had to pull off due to budget constraints."

If it collapsed, the Onekama Township Supervisor says so would the local economy.

“It’s just an economic boost,” Meister says. “If the channel had collapsed and we lost that access to Lake Michigan, you would lose all of the fishing people that come here to go out and fish on Lake Michigan. The boating industry would be devastated here."

Coupled with $800,000 awarded by the DNR last year and help from lawmakers in Lansing, that fear is washed away.

“Just a great bunch of individuals right along for the last 10 years that helped make this happen,” Meister says. “It’s a great thing. Senator Peters on the federal level. Debbie Stabenow and Darwin Booher on a local level. DNR, who actually pushed the project and helped fund last year $800,000 of this to do planning and immediate repairs."

The supervisor says the design should be done within a month and a half.

The Harbor Commission says the work will start next year.

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