Michigan Congressman Bill Huizenga Named 2014 Great Lakes Legislator of the Year

Bill Huizenga Photo

TOLEDO, OH – Congressman Bill Huizenga (R-MI) has been named 2014 Great Lakes Legislator of the Year by the largest labor/management coalition representing workers and industries dependent on shipping on America’s Fourth Sea Coast. The award is presented annually by the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (GLMTF) to a legislator who has helped advance shipping on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway.

“Congressman Huizenga has shown incredible resolve in addressing the dredging crisis on the Great Lakes,” said James H. I. Weakley, President of GLMTF. “His laser-like focus on the issue is one of the big reasons the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) passed by the House in 2013 contains provisions key to ending the dredging crisis. The bill not only calls for more funding for dredging, but designates the Great Lakes a system in terms of dredging, and that in itself should put the Lakes on an even footing with other waterways.”

Weakley, who is also President of Lake Carriers’ Association, emphasized Huizenga’s district includes ports that are suffering from the dredging crisis. “Coal deliveries to Muskegon and limestone cargos to Grand Haven have been affected by the dredging crisis. The House and Senate are currently conferencing on their respective WRRDAs, and we are confident the Lakes provisions will be retained.”

Huizenga’s efforts to end the dredging crisis also have state-wide benefits. “Michigan is the state most impacted by the dredging crisis,” said John D. Baker, 1st Vice President of GLMTF. “Michigan boasts more deep-draft ports than the other seven Great Lakes states combined. The largest limestone quarries in the Great Lakes basin and cement plants in Alpena and Charlevoix are dependent on efficient shipping on the Lakes, but the dredging crisis has dramatically reduced the amount of cargo that can be loaded each trip.”

Baker, who is also President Emeritus of the ILA’s Great Lakes District Council, stressed Michigan’s steel industry is also disadvantaged by the dredging crisis. “Ships loading iron ore in Marquette for delivery to the steel mill in River Rouge cannot carry full loads because the St. Marys River has not been dredged since 2008.”

Huizenga’s strong support for adequate U.S. Coast Guard icebreaking resources on the Lakes has taken on a special significance this year. “The winter of 2013/2014 was the harshest since 1993/1994,” said Thomas Curelli, 2nd Vice President of GLMTF. “The ice was so thick the Coast Guard had to lead convoys to get the ships across Lake Superior and Marquette wasn’t able to load its first cargo until April 14, weeks later than normal. We are indeed fortunate the U.S. Coast Guard now has nine icebreakers stationed on the Great Lakes, otherwise vital cargos would have been delayed to the point that more employers might have had to curtail production.”

Curelli, who is also Director of Operations for Fraser Shipyards, Inc. and a retired Coast Guard Commander, noted Rep. Huizenga’s regard for the Coast Guard also reflects that Grand Haven, Michigan, is considered Coast Guard City U.S.A and hosts the annual Coast Guard Festival to honor the men and woman who guard America’s waters. “Rep. Huizenga is a prominent member of the Congressional Coast Guard Caucus and shares our deep appreciation for these “Guardians of the Lakes.”

The U.S./Canada trade on the Great Lakes is an important segment of the industry and Rep. Huizenga is Chairman of the U.S.-Canada Interparlimentary Group. “It is important that the Lakes have a voice in this forum, said Donald N. Cree, 3rd Vice President of GLMTF and Great Lakes Special Assistant to the National President for American Maritime Officers. “The more we work together on issues affecting the Cross-Lakes trade such as adequate icebreaking resources on both sides of the border and ballast water regulations, the more our nations benefit.”

With his selection as Great Lakes Legislator of the Year, Rep. Huizenga becomes the ninth Michigan legislator to receive the award. Previous recipients are Senators Carl Levin, Debbie Stabenow and Spencer Abraham, and Representatives Candice Miller, Dave Camp, Vernon Ehlers, Bart Stupak, and Dave Bonior.

Founded in 1992, Great Lakes Maritime Task Force promotes domestic and international shipping on the Great Lakes. With 85 members, 22 of which are based in Michigan, 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.

GLMT’s goals include ensuring Lakes dredging is adequately funded, construction of a second Poe sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, upholding the Jones Act and other U.S. maritime cabotage laws and regulations; maximizing the Lakes overseas trade via the St. Lawrence Seaway; opposing exports and/or increased diversions of Great Lakes water; and expanding short sea shipping on the Lakes.

For more information contact Glen Nekvasil, Secretary: (440) 333-9996 / E-Mail: info@glmtf.org