By Julie Riddle, The Alpena News
This article is part of a collaboration between The Alpena News and Great Lakes Now at Detroit Public Television to bring audiences stories about the Great Lakes, especially Lake Huron and its watershed.
ALPENA – An Alpena company will snag a piece of more than $241 million in grants awarded to upgrade U.S. ports.
Lafarge Alpena, which last year asked the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration for help paying for upgrades to one of its boat slips, will receive $3.7 million as one of 25 grantees of DOT’s port infrastructure development grants, awarded at the end of 2021.
The investments in the Alpena port, and others across the nation, will strengthen supply chains and speed up delivery of goods to residents, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said in a news release.
The City of Alpena partnered with Lafarge in applying for the grant, which required public sponsorship.
Lafarge will use the grant to improve an existing but rarely used boat slip, making it deeper and wider to allow access by freighters longer than the ships that currently pick up loads of cement at the Lafarge port, plant manager Jeff Scott said.
Structural work on the adjacent dock, including adding a roof to a storage structure, will allow for offloading on both sides of a freighter dropping off raw materials.
Old-style vessels could reach the slip’s unloading equipment, but the larger ships Lafarge hopes to attract can’t, Scott said.
Those older, smaller ships are fewer and farther between on the Great Lakes, and Alpena needs to attract the larger ships more common on the horizon to remain competitive as a port city, he said.
Larger ships also carry more product, meaning one freighter can do the work of two smaller vessels, creating a smaller carbon footprint and lowering the cost of doing business for the company.
The improved slip would be open to public vessels when not in use by Lafarge and could benefit the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Scott said in June.
Lafarge will have to pay a portion of the $5 million project before government money kicks in, with funds channeled through the city as the project’s sponsor. Grant rules require that Lafarge buy American for all project materials and services except in extreme circumstances.
Lafarge will apply for dredging permits in spring. Scott hopes work on the slip can begin in fall, with projects expected to be complete in mid-2023.
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Featured image: A boat slip and buildings currently used for loading and unloading at Lafarge Alpena appear from the Lafarge harbor last week. Lafarge was awarded a $3.7 million grant that will make possible the renovation of another slip to receive large freighters. (Photo Credit: Julie Riddle/Alpena News)