Midwest Region


Good News for Boaters, More than $4 Million in Grants Will Boost Recreational Boating in the Midwest

May 9, 2014

Boating on the Mississippi River by Dave Menke/USFWS.
Boating on the Mississippi River by Dave Menke/USFWS.

Recreational boaters received good news this week when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced more than $4.5 million in Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG) program competitive grants to the Midwest Region. Four projects including three in Michigan and one in Ohio will take home 33% of the total BIG funding distributed this year. Nationwide, 10 states and the District of Columbia will receive a total of $14.27 million in BIG program competitive grants. In a smaller non-competitive grant dedicated to boating infrastructure projects, the Service will also provide over $2.4 million to 27 states, commonwealths and territories willing to match these funds.

“Anglers and boaters make these grants possible, helping communities build and enhance facilities that provide recreational opportunities while supporting jobs and economic growth,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “These funds pay for floating docks, fixed piers, mooring buoys, sewage pump-out stations and other infrastructure that benefits fish and wildlife habitat while providing access for outdoor recreation.”

Grantees use BIG funds to construct, renovate and maintain facilities with features for transient boaters (those staying 10 days or fewer) who pilot vessels that are 26 feet or more in length and are used for recreation. Grantees also may use funds to produce and distribute information and educational materials about the program and about recreational boating. Funding for the BIG program comes from the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund which boaters and manufacturers support through excise and other taxes on certain fishing and boating equipment and gasoline.

“BIG grants are an impactful, win-win solution for boaters, businesses and states. Providing recreational boaters with the infrastructure and facilities they need to enjoy the water through their own tax dollars is a proven success. In turn, waterside communities and their small businesses benefit from the economic footprint left by visitors who boat there,” said Thom Dammrich, chairman of the Sport Fish and Boating Partnership Council and president of the National Marine Manufacturers’ Association.

Projects in the Service’s Midwest Region receiving competitive grants are:

  • Harbor Shores Transient Marina, Benton Harbor, Mich. – BIG grant: $699,500; non-federal match: $701,578; total project cost: $1,401,078:

    The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Recreation will partner with a private development corporation to build the Harbor Shores Transient Marina on the St. Joseph River, which lies adjacent to the City of Benton Harbor. The project will create 33 new slips for eligible vessels, including all utilities such as electricity, water and pump-out services. In addition, the project will provide boaters with access to showers, restrooms and laundry facilities. The proposed marina is part of a larger brownfield redevelopment effort which has transformed an industrial site into a successful mixed-use development providing an economic stimulus to the communities it serves.
  • State Harbor Dock Renovation, East Tawas, Mich. – BIG grant: $1,300,000; non-federal match: $950,000; total project cost: $2,250,000:

    The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Recreation will remove, replace and expand boating infrastructure at the East Tawas State Harbor Dock. This existing facility is in need of repair and upgrades to meet ADA standards and to meet increasing demand from cruising vessels traveling Michigan’s Lake Huron between Detroit and Mackinaw City. The project will result in 52 slips with utilities, shoreline improvements and an ice suppression system. The facility also serves as a harbor of refuge and is a key economic driver to the City of East Tawas.
  • Bishop Park Transient Marina, Wyandotte, Mich. – BIG grant: $1,170,500; non-federal match: $1,170,500; total project cost: $2,341,000:

    The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Recreation will partner with the City of Wyandotte to construct a transient marina at Bishop Park along the Detroit River. This location is directly contiguous to the Wyandotte Central Business District, and so this project will have significant economic benefits for small businesses due to an anticipated increase in tourism-related spending during summer months. The project includes walkways, floating piers with utility pedestals and additional amenities, resulting in 21 new slips for use by eligible boaters.
  • Smale Riverfront Park Marina, Cincinnati, Ohio – BIG grant: $1,500,000; non-federal match: $1,500,000; total project cost: $3,000,000:

    The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Watercraft will partner with the City of Cincinnati to construct the Smale Riverfront Park Marina on the Ohio River. The marina will feature a floating dock system for up to 28 eligible vessels, as well as a harbormaster facility with restrooms, laundry, shower facilities and a pump-out station. The proposed marina will provide a key accessible connection for transient boaters to the downtown core of the city including national museums and two professional sports venues, as well as the Ohio River Trail.

For more information on each of the grant projects, visit:    

To learn more about the Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, visit:


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Last updated: June 15, 2016