A consortium of government agencies has approved a $175,000 grant for a two-year study on how Michigan communities with small, shallow-draft harbors can plan for economic sustainability in response to the long-term trend of lower water levels in the Great Lakes. The study will be led by Civil Engineering Professor Donald Carpenter of Lawrence Technological University in Southfield and Sanjiv Sinha, vice president of Water Resources Environmental Consulting & Technology, Inc., a Florida-based company with six offices in Michigan.
A decade-long trend of lower water levels in the Great Lakes has hurt economic activity in Michigan communities with harbors, and the trend is likely to continue. By 2015 public harbors in the state will be required to develop five-year master plans in order to receive financial support from the Waterways Commission of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR).
“Research is badly needed to inform both the development process and the content of these plans,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter and Sinha will lead the process of using focus groups and charettes for four harbor communities in order to come up with a financial model and a toolkit of planning resources to be used in the development of a master plan for attaining long-term financial sustainability.
Under the two-year study project, the model that results from this process will be deployed to advise stakeholders in two additional harbor communities in order to demonstrate the transferability and use of the model and the accompanying toolkit.
The project will identify opportunities for both generating revenue and cutting costs, and the economic model will enable communities to measure the financial viability of their harbors. The project will produce a summary report, presentation, case study fact sheets, and a website that will assist communities in their planning efforts.