Benton Harbor City Commissioners have voted to contribute to the St. Joseph River dredging project being undertaken by Berrien County.

Due to a buildup of sand in the river, especially around the Tackle Haven docks and toward the south end of the island, recreational boating may not be possible in the river this summer. Therefore, Berrien County is leading an effort to conduct dredging with the cost of the permit being covered by the city of St. Joseph, St. Joseph Township, and the county.

At a meeting this week, Benton Harbor Commissioners agreed the city should also be involved. Mayor Marcus Muhammad said it’s important to the community.

In the past we have received federal dollars to dredge the river, but as we come up on boating season, as people are going to be fishing, that’s an over 20 million dollar industry for the southwest, but particularly Benton Harbor-St. Joe,” Muhammad said. “When you don’t have that water dredged, it can cause serious issues.”

The city commission voted four to three to contribute $10,000 of federal ARPA money to the project. Commissioner Juanita Henry questioned whether that’s an allowed use of ARPA funds, and City Manager Alex Little said it is. However, Henry still voted no along with Commissioners Emma Kinnard and Ethel Clark Griffin.

At first, there was some confusion over whether the resolution passed because the city clerk said the nine-member commission needed five yes votes for approval and two commissioners were absent. However, a later opinion from the city attorney stated the commission only needed a majority vote of those present for a resolution to pass. Therefore, the dredging resolution was, in fact, approved.