Project to help small harbors, ensure long-term sustainability


Michigan Sea Grant and the state of Michigan have launched a project to support Michigan small harbors’ efforts to become economically, socially and environmentally sustainable, and to equip coastal community leaders with the tools to assess and strengthen their waterfront assets.

Michigan Sea Grant is a cooperative program of the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


The $175,000 small harbors project includes $125,000 from National Sea Grant plus $50,000 provided by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. The project will update the 2017 Sustainable Small Harbors Tools and Tactics Guidebook findings regarding small harbor sustainability.

The two-year project is led by engineer Donald Carpenter of Drummond Carpenter, an environmental and water resources engineering firm.

“I’m glad we were able to obtain a grant from National Sea Grant to expand this project and to continue our long-standing partnership with EGLE,” said Michael Fraker, Michigan Sea Grant’s research program manager and an assistant research scientist in the School for Environment and Sustainability.

Local, county and state governments support more than 80 small public harbors and marinas throughout Michigan.

The Michigan Sea Grant project will gather information on emerging tools and tactics and update best practices, including strategies related to fluctuating water levels, climate resiliency, decarbonization, changing economic activity, and state and federal funding and programs.

It will include additional success stories for small Michigan coastal communities seeking resiliency, new and improved coastal resiliency tools, and steps toward a just transition to decarbonization. Many of these harbor towns are underserved or environmental justice communities.

“These harbors are a critical component of the state’s Blue Economy, generating billions of dollars in recreational boating and other revenue annually throughout the Great Lakes,” Carpenter said. “This project will gather updated information and resources to support decision-making by these small harbor communities.”

The project is kicking off with workshops this fall with local, state and regional leaders, and will start to build a network for wider use and implementation of the guidebook’s recommendations.

It will collect and share information among small Michigan harbor communities to support their planning and risk assessment, resiliency, funding identification and project implementation. The revised guidebook also will incorporate issues related to environmental justice that may affect policy implementation and how to address them.

“Michigan’s harbor communities have weathered many challenges in the last few decades, including extreme fluctuating water levels, aging infrastructure, shifts in the state’s economy and decreased federal funding for maintenance,” said Emily Finnell, Great Lakes senior adviser and strategist with EGLE. “This work will support local government, coastal communities, planning and economic development organizations, and others to ensure their sustainability.”

Michigan Sea Grant funds research, education and outreach projects designed to foster science-based decisions about the use and conservation of Great Lakes resources.


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