Toledo, OH – Thirty-four members of the House of Representatives from Great Lakes states have sent a letter calling for provisions in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (“WRRDA”) that will end the dredging crisis that has crippled Great Lakes shipping for decades. Lack of adequate funding for dredging has left more than 18 million cubic yards of sediment clogging ports and waterways and the largest vessels are at times leaving more than 10,000 tons of cargo behind each trip.
“Great Lakes shipping is a cornerstone of our nation’s economy,” said Don Cree, President of Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, the largest labor/management coalition ever assembled to promote waterborne commerce on the nation’s Fourth Seacoast. “When vessels leave cargo back at the loading dock, the inefficiencies affect steel production, power generation, the construction industry and overseas imports and exports via the St. Lawrence Seaway.”
Cree, who is also the Great Lakes Special Assistant to the National President for American Maritime Officers, stressed the dredging crisis is totally unnecessary. “The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (“HMTF”) has a surplus of more than $7 billion. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs $200 million to restore the Great Lakes Navigation System (“GLNS”) to its proper depth. The money is there, but instead the HMTF is amassing a surplus to help paper balance the Federal budget. The provisions House members ask be included in the WRRDA will bring more Federal dredging dollars back to the Lakes.”
Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, a Democrat from New York and Rep. Bill Huizenga, a Republican from Michigan, led the letter urging the inclusion of GLNS provisions in the legislation.
“Great Lakes commerce is responsible for 130,000 jobs and $18 billion in business revenue, and it’s time our government provided proper support to the businesses and communities that rely on the Lakes,” said Rep. Slaughter, Co-Chair of the Great Lakes Task Force in the House. “We should not have to cobble together private funds and scraps of Federal money – like I have done over the last few years – to maintain our ports. By designating the Great Lakes as one system, we can provide more funding for critical infrastructure improvements like dredging and give businesses and communities peace of mind that these shipping lanes will be properly maintained, allowing them to expand and create jobs.”
Rep. Huizenga stressed that “While the House passed version of WRRDA is a significant step in the right direction, I believe it is important to remind the Conference Committee that the Great Lakes Navigation System is the backbone of our nation's manufacturing and agricultural economies, supporting 145 million tons of commodities annually. For too long, harbors across the Great Lakes have not been dredged to their authorized width and depth, while 50% of the funds paid into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund have been spent on projects unrelated to maintaining our nation's ports and harbors.
"WRRDA creates the opportunity to implement policies that will help clear the 18 million cubic yards of sediment that currently clog ports and waterways throughout the Great Lakes. By classifying the entire GLNS as a unified body, focusing resources on the Great Lakes, and instructing harbor maintenance funding to be in line with revenues collected into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, Congress can ensure the Great Lakes not only maintain their economic impact, but allow for economic expansion that will make the region even stronger."
The letter to Chairmen Boxer and Shuster and Ranking Members Vitter and Rahall asks that at least 15 percent of all annual Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (“HMTF”) appropriations be provided for maintaining the GLNS. The Representatives also ask that the GLNS be explicitly authorized as a single system. Any expanded uses of the HMTF should await full restoration of currently authorized projects.
Signing the letter were Representatives Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), Bill Huizenga (R-MI), Sean P. Duffy (R-WI), Mike Kelly (R-PA), Sander Levin (D-MI), David Joyce (R-OH), Brian Higgins (D-NY), John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Gwen Moore (D-WI), John D. Dingell (D-MI), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Dan Benishek (R-MI), Mike Rogers (R-MI), Reid Ribble (R-WI), Dan Maffei (D-NY), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Bob Latta (R-OH), Steve Stivers (R-OH), Tom Petri (R-WI), Chris Collins (R-NY), Tim Walberg (R-MI), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI), Fred Upton (R-MI), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), James B. Renacci (R-OH), Gary C. Peters (D-MI), Ron Kind (D-WI), Bill Owens (D-NY), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Pete Visclosky (D-IN), Tom Reed (R-NY), and Glenn Thompson (R-PA).
Click here to download the letter sent by Great Lakes Representatives.
Founded in 1992, Great Lakes Maritime Task Force promotes domestic and international shipping on the Great Lakes. With 85 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 other goals include construction of a second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan; protecting the Jones Act and other U.S. maritime cabotage laws and regulations; maximizing the Lakes overseas trade via the St. Lawrence Seaway; and opposing exports and/or increased diversions of Great Lakes water.
For additional information contact Glen Nekvasil, Secretary, Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (440-333-9996).