Professor Donald Carpenter of Lawrence Technological University and Sanjiv Sinha, Vice President of Water Resources Environmental Consulting & Technology, Inc., will lead a two-year study on how Michigan communities with small, shallow-draft harbors can plan for economic, social, and environmental sustainability.

Official Project Site Link  

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).

Small Harbors Map

Community Charettes

In 2015 the team hosted four charrettes (facilitated community planning sessions) in New Baltimore, Au Gres, Ontonagon and Pentwater. The communities underwent a six-month engagement process with the research team to help the research team identify strategies to improve economic, social and environmental sustainability of Michigan’s harbor communities.

Community Meetings and Opportunities Link 

Project Objectives

The charrettes and additional data collection will be used to develop a financial model that will lead to a toolkit and planning resources to help public harbors pursue financial sustainability. The resources will then be applied at two additional harbors to demonstrate the transferability and use of the toolkit and accompanying documents. 

The toolkit will help bridge the gap amongst various public harbors in their varying ability to develop a realistic long-term vision. Special emphasis will be placed on incorporating concepts from Michigan’s “Placemaking” programs (currently led by Michigan State Housing Development Authority) as well as economic development initiatives (such as Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Redevelopment Ready Program) to make the toolkit relevant to today’s need.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. 


  • Identification of the key barriers to the sustainability of small harbors.
  • Tools that will assist communities in planning, including:
    • A summary report
    • Presentations
    • Case studies and fact sheets
    • Websites
  • A sustainable small harbor management strategy for Michigan’s coastal communities, based on their stated needs.