City commission OKs revised bottomlands agreement

Pact is with Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

The proposed BotEco Center would include botanic gardens, community space and other amenities. (Artist's rendering courtesy of Luke Oberdorfer)

MARQUETTE — The historic ore dock at Marquette’s Lower Harbor is closer to the beginning steps of its revival.

The revised bottomland agreement between the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the city of Marquette was unanimously approved Monday by the Marquette City Commission at its regular meeting.

“The MDEQ actually re-interpreted the bottomland agreement differently than previous administrations, as well as made a few changes to the wording and language that helped us move forward,” City Manager Mike Angeli said. “There have been several attempts over the years to use this ore dock in some capacity as a public benefit, but it’s been really restricted by the bottomlands agreement.”

Several years ago, Friends of the Ore Dock BotEco Center, a nonprofit organization, approached city staff with the concept of converting the abandoned iron ore dock into a botanical and ecological center called the Ore Dock BotEco Center. The center would include ecological education and research facilities, year-round indoor botanical gardens, historical preservation and education, and community spaces.

The estimated $90 million project would not have local taxpayer dollars funneled into the project. Instead, funding would come from donations, grants and endowments, according to BotEco’s website.

City staff and BotEco have been working with the MDEQ to revise an existing agreement regarding the use and occupancy of Lake Superior bottomlands.

“My observation on this was, I believe there’s many restrictions on the ore dock previous to this agreement and now they’ve eased up a bit,” Mayor Dave Campana said.

The ore dock will remain under city ownership as a public park, with BotEco responsible for maintenance and operations under a new legal relationship that would be created.

Commissioner Sarah Reynolds asked Angeli if construction on the ore dock will impact the Fourth of July fireworks.

“In the short term, I don’t believe there’s going to be any effect at all with the fireworks,” Angeli said. “This is a first step in the process for moving forward with any type of fundraising for developing this project. I think it’s going to be several years until that takes place. In the long-term it could be an effect but that’s something we can address at the time.”

Commissioner Peter Frazier praised the idea of reviving the ore dock since it’s a “historical monument for the area.”

Commissioner Jenna Smith said she’s excited about the upcoming project and hopes that when her daughter’s a teenager she’ll be able to enjoy it at its “full capacity.”

The revised agreement can be found on the city’s website at www.marquettemi.gov/.


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