Full Funding for Dredging Great Lakes Deep-Draft Ports and Waterways

GOAL: Ensure that the Great Lakes navigation system is adequately funded for dredging through the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF).

BACKGROUND: There are 60 federally-maintained deep-draft ports on the Great Lakes and their connecting waterways that create the single maritime transportation system that is the foundation of U.S. manufacturing, infrastructure, and energy production and opens the U.S. Great Lakes ports to the world.

However, decades of inadequate funding for dredging the Great Lakes have left more than 13 million cubic yards of sediment clogging ports and waterways. Sediment on the bottom means cargoes are left at the dock when vessels can not load to the design depths of the system. This can be as much as 270 tons of iron ore on a U.S.-flag vessel for each inch lost when channels are not adequately dredged. The foreign-flag vessels frequenting the Lakes can forfeit 116 tons for each inch of draft lost.

Lack of available funding should never have been a reason for lack of adequate dredging. The federal government taxes maritime cargo and the receipts are deposited in the HMTF. The HMTF collects more revenue from shippers than Congress has appropriated to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to maintain our harbors. $9.3 billion in already collected revenue sits idle in the U.S. Treasury, not being used for its intended purpose of investing in our Nation’s ports and harbors.

ECONOMIC BENEFITS: Annually about 160 million tons of cargo, valued at $15 billion, moves on the Great Lakes in commercial ships. The U.S.-flag Great Lakes fleet moves 80 to 90 million of those tons each year mostly between U.S. ports.

A 2018 study titled, “Economic Impacts of Maritime Shipping in the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Region” determined that waterborne commerce on the Great Lakes generated more than 147,000 U.S. jobs in the eight Great Lakes states, $10.5 billion in personal income, $20.3 billion in business revenue, $5.3 billion in local purchases, and $4.6 billion in federal and state taxes. Another study conducted concluded that Great Lakes navigation supports approximately 400,000 export-related jobs in the U.S.

ACTION: Support House Resolution 2440, the “Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act” which would authorize $34 billion from the HMTF over the next decade for dredging and maritime infrastructure, including in the Great Lakes.