Marquette County projects funded

The Republic Dam, which controls the flow of water into the Michigamme River Basin in Republic Township, is pictured in June. A project to convert the aging dam into a permanent spillway and fish passage received $100,000 from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. It is among several projects in Marquette County, which garnered over half a million dollars in grant funding from the department this year. (Photo courtesy of Republic Township)

MARQUETTE — Marquette County projects garnered over a half million dollars in grants from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development this year.

According to a Feb. 28 MDARD press release, 16 projects totaling slightly more than $1.24 million were selected for the grants, which are “designed to promote the sustainability of land-based industries and support infrastructure that benefits rural communities.”

“What these grants demonstrate is the commitment of MDARD and the state of Michigan to help ignite impactful projects and efforts in rural communities,” MDARD Director Gary McDowell said. “Through targeted investments and matching funds from businesses, local municipalities and others, we can provide opportunities for thousands of businesses and employees in every corner of the state.”

The city of Negaunee will receive $100,000 to help offset the $600,000 cost to replace 1,400 feet of its sanitary sewer main, laterals and manholes on Brown Avenue.

In a phone interview Monday, Negaunee City Manager Nate Heffron said he is grateful for MDARD’s assistance in what he termed an “extremely important” project.

SOUCY

“Actually, it takes on 50 percent or more of the wastewater; nearly half of the sewer customers of the city run through that main,” Heffron said. “If it failed, we would have a lot of unhappy residents.”

Heffron said sometimes residents don’t realize how expensive one project can be.

“Just this project alone we had to save up capital improvement fees for five or six years, and it’s gone in one project,” Heffron said. “So wherever and however we can get help, we are going to seek that out. We are very grateful to MDARD for their support. We are one of the few communities that scored well enough to be granted the full $100,000.”

Two Republic Township projects also benefited from the MDARD grants.

The township got $100,000 for the creation of a trailhead building for the Iron Ore Heritage Trail “to serve tourism taking place in Marquette County,” the MDARD press release states.

HEFFRON

The Michigamme River Basin Tax Increment Financing and Water Improvement Authority received $100,000 to be put toward a roughly $450,000 project to replace the Republic Dam with a spillway and create a fish passage, authority Chairman Jim Brennan said during a phone interview today.

Brennan said the authority is seeking grants from two other sources in order to pay for the project in its entirety.

“This is just one hurdle. We have to get match money before we can even start the process,” Brennan said. “This is one step moving forward toward our final solution (that) we have been working on with the state and government officials, and now we just need the grant money to make this happen.”

The county of Marquette also received $100,000 to replace the 37-year-old influent pumps at the K.I. Sawyer Wastewater Treatment Facility.

Powell Township was granted $43,500 for the first part of a multiphase project to convert 9 miles of the Big Bay pathway to year-round use.

The grants were not limited to municipal governments. According to the MDARD release, the Central Upper Peninsula Planning and Development regional office in Marquette will receive $83,000 to coordinate, develop and implement a strategic plan for workforce loss mitigation within Marquette County.

In an email on Monday, CUPPAD community planner Ryan Soucy said whether in the recent past or near future, the region has seen “a handful of factors that have created a good deal of uncertainty in our regional economy.”

“From rises and falls in the mining industry to changes to how we generate our energy. There’s a good portion of this that is out of our ability to control locally, due to policies and market conditions nationally and globally, but we aren’t entirely powerless to steer ourselves to a healthier economic future,” Soucy said. “By working with our partners on this economic resiliency plan, we’ll be better prepared to deal with the shocks that come along with these disruptions and take coordinated steps (to) reshape our workforce and communities so we can be more competitive as a region.”

According to the release, proposals were evaluated through a competitive process. More information about the grant program or a complete list of eligible counties can be found on the web www.michigan.gov/mdardgrants.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.