USA: Senators Highlight Importance of Great Lakes Waterways
U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin applauded a new agreement that makes the Great Lakes a priority. The House-Senate conference agreement on the Water Resources Development Act for the first time treats the Great Lakes as a single navigational system, increases funding for harbor maintenance, and provides broader authority for the Army Corps of Engineers to prevent breakthrough of Asian carp into the Great Lakes.
To help deal with the current backlog of harbor maintenance, the bill calls for nearly doubling the amount of funding for harbor maintenance over ten years, including for smaller harbors that support recreational activities and tourism. Additionally, the bill ensures that at least 10 percent of all new national harbor funding will be set aside specifically for projects in the Great Lakes system.
“This is an important step toward ensuring that the commercial importance and conservation of the Great Lakes remains a national priority,” said Stabenow. “Maintaining our ports, harbors and waterways is essential to keep our economy growing. Our Great Lakes are vital to our Michigan way of life, supporting billions of dollars in commerce and hundreds of thousands of jobs.”
“This conference report is good for the Great Lakes,” said Senator Levin. “It holds the promise of strengthening the Great Lakes navigation system, and it makes permanent the authorization of emergency measures to prevent Asian carp from entering the lakes.”
The conference agreement for the first time treats the entire Great Lakes as a single navigation system, helping smaller ports qualify for maintenance as part of the larger waterway system.
The report also includes a plan to address spending of the the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which currently only spends half of its allocations on harbor maintenance with the rest redirected into a general revenue fund. The plan sets target funding levels to ensure all the fees collected for harbor maintenance are used for actual harbor maintenance by 2025.
Press Release, May 19, 2014