Senators Stabenow, Peters Call for Increased Funding for Harbor Maintenance, Great Lakes Navigation Projects

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow, Co-Chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, and Gary Peters, member of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to direct additional funding to Great Lakes navigation projects in FY2015. In a letter to Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) and Lt. General Thomas Bostick, Commanding General of the Army Corps of Engineers, Sen. Stabenow and Sen. Peters along with 9 colleagues called for additional resources to address the backlog of dredging and maintenance projects across Michigan and the Great Lakes region.
‘While we appreciate the additional support you provided to Great Lakes navigation maintenance in FY2014, a backlog of unmet navigation system maintenance remains across the Great Lakes,’ the letter stated. ‘Therefore, we urge the Corps to direct additional resources for Great Lakes navigation projects in FY2015. This additional support is sorely needed to address the lack of maintenance of our locks, breakwaters, and dredging needs, which continues to force vessels to light-load, grounds vessels, impedes safe navigation, and closes harbors.’
Sen. Stabenow has led the effort to make sure Michigan’s ports, harbors, and waterways are properly maintained, which is critical to supporting Michigan’s shipping, boating and tourism industries. Last year, the Water Resources Development Act for the first time treated the Great Lakes as a single navigational system and increased funding for harbor maintenance. Sen. Stabenow has also been a strong advocate for using the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for its intended purpose: maintaining our ports and harbors. Currently, only half of Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund dollars are on spent on actual harbor maintenance.
Sen. Peters has aggressively fought for the necessary resources to ensure our Great Lakes continue to thrive and preserve the thousands of shipping, tourism and agriculture jobs supported by the Lakes. In the House of Representatives, he proudly voted for last year’s Water Resources Reform and Development Act to modernize water infrastructure and designate the Great Lakes as a single navigation system, and he has consistently urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dedicate increased resources to maintenance and dredging projects along the Great Lakes.
Full text of the letter follows below. Dear Secretary Darcy and LTG Bostick: The Great Lakes provide an essential transportation network for the movement of products, such as road salt, iron and steel products, coal, and agricultural commodities for domestic and international consumption. Utilizing the Great Lakes navigation system is often the least expensive option to ship these goods that are necessary to build our roads, power our homes, enable manufacturing, and feed our families. However, the Great Lakes infrastructure lacks adequate maintenance and the efficiency of the system is threatened by a growing backlog of dredging needs, aging locks, and deteriorating breakwaters, piers, and jetties. We need to modernize and rebuild this infrastructure in order to realize the full economic potential the Great Lakes provide. On December 13, 2014, Congress approved an appropriations measure for fiscal year 2015 (FY2015) that provided funding to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) for a variety of water resource projects, including Great Lakes navigation. In addition to allocating funds for specific projects, Congress also provided additional guidance and funding for the Corps to distribute to navigation projects across the country. As it was explained in the accompanying joint statement, Congress provided this additional funding because ‘Federal navigation channels maintained at only a fraction of authorized dimensions . . . results in economic inefficiencies and risks infrastructure failure, which can cause substantial economic losses. Investing in operation, maintenance, and rehabilitation of infrastructure today will save taxpayers money in the future.’ Of this additional funding provided by Congress, the Great Lakes navigation projects are eligible for approximately $255 million, which includes additional support for navigation maintenance; small, remote or subsistence navigation; deep- and shallow- draft harbors and channels; and regional sediment management. While we appreciate the additional support you provided to Great Lakes navigation maintenance in FY2014, a backlog of unmet navigation system maintenance remains across the Great Lakes. Therefore, we urge the Corps to direct the needed resources for Great Lakes navigation projects in FY2015. This additional support is sorely needed to address the lack of maintenance of our locks, breakwaters, and dredging needs, which continues to force vessels to light-load, grounds vessels, impedes safe navigation, and closes harbors. As you work to direct the FY2015 funds continues, we urge you to recognize the importance of investing in the Great Lakes navigation system and the critical impact it has on our economy. Thank you for your consideration.
Sincerely,

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