Bridge plans revived for Harsens Island

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

The Detroit International Bridge Co. has revived plans to build a bridge to Harsens Island in St. Clair County.

The company, owned by Manuel “Matty” Moroun, wants to build a 1,750-foot drawbridge across the St. Clair River, according to a permit application to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

"The Middle Channel" ferry prepares to unload at Algonac. Currently, the only ways to access the island are via boat or ferry.

If approved, it would be the second bridge for Moroun, whose company owns the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit to Windsor. The Department of Environmental Quality denied a similar proposal from the bridge company in 2007.

The latest proposed project will have “two lanes of traffic with adequate shoulders to allow pedestrian and bicycle traffic to also utilize the bridge,” the company wrote in a permit filed with the Department of Environmental Quality in November. Southfield-based engineering and construction company Atwell LLC is listed as contractor for the project.

The Department of Environmental Quality’s 20-day public comment period ends Thursday. Clay Township Supervisor Artie Bryson requested that the department extend the public comment period. A public hearing for the project is tentatively set for March 9, he said Monday.

Bryson said he has concerns about the project including if the bridge’s proposed 12 pillars would create ice jams.

“I’ve seen it happen without a bridge,” he said. “It causes flooding to communities upstream before the Coast Guard can break it up.”

Another concern is that the bridge would be owned by a private company.

“If it went broke, would they just walk away and we’re stuck?” he said. “We’d have this obsolete structure going across the river.”

Representatives for the bridge company could not be reached for comment Monday.

Currently, the only ways to reach the island are by boat and ferry.

The proposed bridge would start in Algonac at the Riverview Campground Marina, on the south side of M-29, according to the application. On Harsens Island, the bridge would end on property described as an undeveloped parcel between Sunset Harbor Marina and the residential development on the north side of North Channel Drive.

Following the public hearing in March, there will be an additional 10 days for public comment, said Katie Fairchild, an environmental quality analyst with the Department of Environmental Quality’s water resource division. She said she expects a decision in April.

“There has been significant public interest,” she said. “There are comments supporting and opposing the project.”

In 2007, the department denied the bridge company’s request to build a bridge to the island due to environmental concerns including the project’s impact on the sturgeon habitat and the potential impact on the flood plain of the river, Fairchild said. The request also included private property on the mainland.

“The location of the bridge is different on the mainland,” Fairchild said of the latest application. “Landing on the island side remains the same.”

The public can leave comments about the project by visiting or email Fairchild at

(313) 222-2311