TOLEDO, OH---Michigan Congressman Vernon J. Ehlers has been named Great Lakes Legislator of the Year by The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, the largest coalition representing the Great Lakes maritime community. The award is presented annually to legislators who best advance the interests of Great Lakes shipping in Congress. Rep. Ehlers will receive the award on May 4 at the Task Force's Ninth Annual Informational Breakfast for the Great Lakes Delegation in Washington.
"Congressman Ehlers is a sterling example of a legislator who understands the benefits of waterborne commerce," said Patrick J. O'Hern, President of Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (GLMTF) and Vice President and General Manager of Bay Shipbuilding Company in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. "By supporting policies that keep Lakes shipping safe and cost effective, he not only promotes Michigan's economy, but also a mode of transportation that is the most fuel efficient for the movement of large quantities of dry-bulk and general cargo."
Although Rep. Ehlers' district does not border the Lakes, Michigan itself is the unofficial Capital of Great Lakes shipping. The State is home to 40 deep-draft commercial ports, more than the other seven Great Lakes States combined. "Michigan's vast deposits of limestone and iron ore could not be economically transported throughout the region without Lakes shipping," said Daniel L. Smith, 1st Vice President of GLMTF and National Vice President, Great Lakes, for American Maritime Officers. "As a member of the House's Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Congressman Ehlers has consistently stood for policies and programs that foster this transportation system."
The award also recognizes Congressman Ehlers' service on the House's Great Lakes Task Force. "As Co-Chair, Rep. Ehlers' keen insight into complex issues has been invaluable," said James H. I. Weakley, 2nd Vice President of GLMTF and President of Lake Carriers' Association. "Annual cargo movement on the Lakes can top 200 million tons, but the transportation system must have respected advocates if it is to continue to prosper in the future."
The Great Lakes have been designated the nation's "Fourth Seacoast," a reflection of the overseas trade via the St. Lawrence Seaway. "Global trade via the Lakes/Seaway adds immeasurable benefits to Michigan's economy while promoting the environment," said John D. Baker, 3rd Vice President of GLMTF and President of the ILA's Great Lakes District Council. "Without the Seaway, Michigan's imports and exports would have to be railed or trucked to coastal ports, an unnecessary burden on our congested highways and the air we breath."
The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force was founded in Toledo, Ohio, in 1992 to promote domestic and international Great Lakes shipping. It is the largest coalition to ever speak for the Great Lakes shipping community and draws its membership from both labor and management representing U.S.-flag vessel operators, shipboard and longshore unions, shipyards, and other Great Lakes interests. Its goals include construction of a second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan; preserving the domestic steelmaking infrastructure; protecting the nation's cabotage laws; maximizing the Lakes overseas trade; increasing funding for annual dredging of ports and waterways; and opposing exports and increased diversions of Great Lakes water.
Previous recipients of the Great Lakes Legislator of the Year Award from Michigan are Senator (now Secretary of Energy) Spencer Abraham and Congressmen Dave Bonior and Bart Stupak.
Michigan-based members of the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force are: Hathaway & Hathaway (Detroit); Lake Michigan Carferry Service (Ludington); Lake Michigan Contractors (Holland); Lakes Pilots Association (Port Huron); Luedtke Engineering Company (Frankfort); Michigan Maritime Trades Port Council (Algonac); Pere Marquette Shipping Company (Ludington); and Seafarers International Union (Algonac).
Glen G. Nekvasil
Secretary, Great Lakes Maritime Task Force