Bill will assure help for harbor dredging

October 24, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Mason County’s representatives in Washington, Bill Huizenga (2nd district) and Dr. Dan Benishek (1st district) both voted in favor of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act Wednesday night, a bill that was passed the House by a vote of 417 to 3.

“WRRDA classifies the entire Great Lakes Navigation System as a unified body and instructs the Army Corps to count the 160 million tons of cargo shipped throughout the various ports in the Great Lakes Region as a single entity rather than forcing all 140 harbors to compete against one another,” Huizenga said. “By classifying the Great Lakes like other major shipping waterways, harbors spanning from the St. Lawrence River Basin to Lake Michigan will be able to compete for funds needed to alleviate the over $200 million dredging backlog throughout the Great Lakes.”

Huizenga said it is estimated that 18 million cubic yards of sediment clogs ports and waterways throughout the Great Lakes. “This has reduced the amount of cargo shipped by 500,000 tons over the course of the navigation season. To put this number into perspective, a standard dump truck holds around 15 cubic yards of material, so 18 million cubic yards of sediment would fill the equivalent of 1.2 million standard dump trucks. That number of dump trucks would span a distance greater than the distance between Muskegon, Michigan and Beijing, China.

“Lastly, H.R. 3280 takes an important step toward ensuring the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund is used for its intended purpose by requiring 80% of the monies collected by the fund to actually go to U.S. Army Corps operation and maintenance of our harbors by fiscal year 2020.  More must be done to ensure these dollars are used as they are intended and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the future to make sure that happens.”

“Frankly, this issue is about jobs in northern Michigan,” Benishek said. “A lot of communities up here depend on their harbors and ports for shipping and recreational boating. Unfortunately, we’ve seen the money designated for harbor maintenance being spent on other things. That needs to be fixed. This bill will go a long way toward ensuring our ports and harbors get the maintenance they need,” said Dr. Benishek, a surgeon from Iron River and lifelong resident of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

“Properly maintaining our harbors is huge for Northern Michigan’s economy. And it’s more important than ever because of the historically low water levels in the Great Lakes. I’ve been hearing about it from citizens all over the First District. They want to see some real solutions to this problem and that’s what this bill does.”

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