PORTAGE, Ind. (AP) — Federal funding is being sought for dredging work at Indiana's major port on Lake Michigan where a cargo ship was temporarily grounded this spring, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official said.

The Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard have changed the navigation route into the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor since a ship carrying iron ore got stuck on sand buildup in April but was still able to make it to dock.

Shamel Abou-El-Seoud, chief of construction and operations for the Army Corps' Chicago district, told the Ports of Indiana Commission on Thursday that because of the commercial importance of the Burns Harbor port, he was confident about getting funding consideration for a project to dredge 170,000 cubic yards of sand, The Times of Munster reported (http://bit.ly/PxdaRy ).

He said, however, that money for the dredging likely won't be available until at least late 2013.

Since the port began operating in the 1960s, its waterways have only been dredged once, Abou-El-Seoud said.

"We're hoping it's not going to get worse because it'll be a challenge (to get money) in 2013," he said.

The Burns Harbor port handles 400 barges and 100 ships a year on average, according to the state ports agency.

Ports of Indiana spokesman Jody Peacock said the state agency has only limited money available from a harbor maintenance tax paid by shippers.

Abou-El-Seoud said several Great Lakes harbors are in critical need of infrastructure work such as improving the reliability of decades-old locks. He said the Army Corps is expecting to get $86 million for Great Lakes commercial and recreational navigation projects in the fiscal year starting in October, but only $31 million of that is for dredging.

He said the Great Lakes' 139 harbors have about $250 million in projects that could be funded.


Information from: The Times, http://www.thetimesonline.com