Lakes Call for Override of Vetoed Water Bill

TOLEDO, OH -The Great Lakes shipping industry is calling on Congress to override President Bush's veto of legislation that will accelerate dredging and authorize construction of a second Poe-sized Lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. These provisions and others benefitting the Lakes are included in the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 vetoed by the President on Friday.

"The nation has not passed a Water Resources Development Act in seven years," said John D. Baker, President of Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, the largest coalition ever to represent Great Lakes shipping. "It is high time America started reinvesting in our port and waterway infrastructure. On the Lakes, the dredging crisis is forcing vessels to leave cargo behind virtually every time they leave port. Our reliance on a single Poe-sized Lock to connect Lake Superior to the lower four Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway jeopardizes our ability to maintain industrial production." Baker, who is also President of the ILA's Great Lakes District. Council, further stressed a failure of the Poe Lock would cripple overseas exports from the Great Lakes.

The Water Resources Development Act of 2007 (H.R. 1495) was passed by wide margins in both the House and Senate. "Great Lakes shipping is one of the backbones of the American economy," said James H.I. Weakley, 3rd Vice President of Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (GLMTF). "Hundreds of thousands of family-sustaining jobs depend on the 200-plus million tons of iron ore, coal, limestone, grain and other cargos that move on the Lakes each year. Congress must override the President's veto or the efficiency of Great Lakes shipping will continue to erode." Weakley, who is also President of Lake Carriers' Association, noted that lack of adequate dredging is forcing the largest U.S.-Flag vessels on the Lakes to lose 6,000 tons of cargo each trip.

A second Poe-sized Lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, is one of the most important infrastructure improvements on the Great Lakes in decades. "Approximately 70 percent of U.S.-Flag carrying capacity is restricted to the Poe Lock," said Daniel L. Smith, 2nd Vice President of GLMTF. "If that lock was incapacitated by a structural failure or terrorist attack, the U.S.-Flag Great Lakes fleet could not meet the needs of commerce. Trying to funnel Canadian and ocean-going vessels through the one remaining lock will produce a horrendous traffic jam." Smith, who is also National Executive Vice President of American Maritime Officers, noted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers considers the Soo Locks the single point of failure that could cripple Great Lakes shipping.

"Waterborne commerce, on the Lakes, Rivers, and Coasts, is key to our nation's economic wellbeing and national defense capabilities," said Patrick J. O'Hern, 1st Vice President of GLMTF, and Vice President -Contact Services for Bay Shipbuilding Company. "Congress must override this veto so America can begin rebuilding its ports and waterways."

Great Lakes Maritime Task Force was founded in Toledo, Ohio, in 1992 to promote domestic and international shipping on the Great Lakes. With 73 members, 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, port authorities, cargo shippers, terminal operators, shipyards and other Great Lakes interests. Its goals include restoring adequate funding for dredging of Great Lakes deep-draft ports and waterways, construction of a second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan; protecting the nation's cabotage laws; maximizing the Lakes overseas trade; and opposing exports and increased diversions of Great Lakes water.

Glen G. Nekvasil
Secretary, Great Lakes Maritime Task Force