Cost of Dredging Grand River (Ohio) Doesn't Float Their Boat

May 10, 2002
Whether boaters will have to pay a fee to use the Grand River (Ohio) may depend on which side of the river they dock their boat on. In the village of Grand River, docking is free, but Fairport Harbor has a fee - at least for now.

Fairport Harbor Port Authority officials are seeking a solution to the nagging dredging problem that surface every year when local marinas have to pay as much as $50,000 to dredge river channels.

Officials were hoping to get Fairport Harbor and Grand River marinas and boaters to share the cost. Fairport council approved the user fees that will be collected beginning July 1. Grand River officials are considering a fee and have not yet voted on it.

Verne Horton, Fairport Harbor village administrator, said the fee will pay for dredging to deepen channels that in some spots were only 2 feet deep last year.

"It is much too shallow farther up river. They are losing some docks in spots," he said. The water levels were so low that some floating docks had to be removed.

While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredges in the federal navigational channels at the mouth of the Grand and Cuyahoga rivers, it does not dredge farther up those rivers where recreational boaters dock.

"The government picks up the tab for commercial boating, why not for recreational boaters? They pay a lot of taxes already on their boats and fuel," said Deborah Schneider, manager of Riverbend Marina Inc. on High Street in Fairport Harbor.

Cleveland Port Authority Maritime Director Stephen Pfeiffer said the Corps of Engineers dredges the Cuyahoga River about six miles up for commercial traffic. Marinas in channels off the river must pay fees. He said the federal government decides where to dredge based on costs and benefits. Recreational marinas don't qualify for federal help because not enough people benefit from them.

"Boat owners who dock in the Chagrin River have been paying fees for years," said John Sima, owner of Sima Marine in Eastlake and vice chairman of the Eastlake Port Authority.

Sima said boaters pay between $40 and $115 a year depending on the size of the boat they dock. The port authority uses that money to match state and federal money to pay for dredging every year.

In Fairport Harbor, boaters who rent dock space or use ramps on the river will be assessed $30 per water space. So if one slip holds two boats, both owners will pay. Owners of commercial ramps will be charged $500 annually on top of a dock fee for boaters.

Nonprofit organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Fairport Harbor Rod and Reel Club, which have private docks, will pay $250 annually.

Horton, the Fairport Harbor administrator, said the Fairport Harbor Port Authority received a $366,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural resources to dredge this year.

But officials want to set aside money for future years when state funding may not be available.

Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer