SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — The South Haven harbor will be dredged over two to four days next week, with the material pulled from the bottom placed along the shoreline.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is managing the dredging, says that will create an unsafe area for beachgoers and is reminding people to stay away.

Dredging, the removal of sediment from underwater, is frequently done in the Great Lakes to “maintain the navigation system that is used for the shipping of commercial and also recreational boating,” Josh Hachey, section chief for operations support for Detroit District of USACE, explained.

Over the past few years in South Haven, high water levels have eroded part of the beach. The federal 2022 budget included funds to replenish the coastline with sand, also known as “beach nourishment.”

“The Corps of Engineers made the determination that it would be in the best interest to use those beach nourishment funds to dredge the harbor and place that material for beach nourishment,” Chris Schropp, a civil engineer at USACE’s Grand Haven Field Office, said.

Material that will be removed from the harbor was tested before the dredge. Schropp said it came back to be more than 90% sand, the state requirement for placement.

“I’m pretty sure this material is 99.9% sand. It’s clean beach sand that will go back onto the beach,” Schropp said.

The joint contract of St. Joseph and South Haven was given to The King Co., Inc. The company is currently dredging in St. Joseph. Once crews are finished, which is estimated to be Wednesday or Thursday, they will move on to South Haven.

The project was supposed to happen earlier in the summer but a ship strike in Muskegon led USACE to rearrange its schedule to prioritize Muskegon.

A map of the South Haven dredging and beach nourishment location. (Courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

While the dredging is happening, the area where the sand is being added to the coastline will be closed to beachgoers.

“The beach placement site should be marked with a fence and signage. We would ask that people respect that and stay out of that area for the time being… (The discharged material) takes a little time to drain out so it can be kind of a quicksand situation at times… it’s not a solid surface right away,” Schropp said.

The King Co. will have a dredge in the harbor as well as a hydraulic pipeline that extends from the back of the dredge to the coast. Buoys will be marking the path of the pipeline.

“We would ask that any recreational vessels to stay clear of the dredge and respect the no-wake sign that is on it,” Schropp said.

Next year, the harbor will be dredged and the material will be put in front of the water treatment plant at the request of the city.

“We did receive an appropriation about midway this year as a community-funded project directly from Congress that seeks to address that South Beach area. So we’re currently doing the analysis that we need to do to coordinate with the state to allow us to put the material there,” Hachey said, adding that USACE is hoping to dredge early in the spring.

“When we had the high waters in 2020, some of their water plant was affected, some of their wells had water entering it,” Schropp said. “I think what they’re trying to avoid is any contamination of their drinking water. So (the city) is hoping that if we place any additional material on the beach, it will provide additional protection for their water plan and their wells.”