Michigan senators welcome increased funding for harbor maintenance

WASHINGTON – Michigan stands to gain relief from a significant backlog of harbor maintenance at Great Lakes harbors under a spending bill that passed a key committee hurdle last week, Michigan Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow said today.

The energy and water appropriations bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee and sent to the full Senate for consideration includes $140 million more in harbor maintenance funding for fiscal year 2014 than the administration’s budget request, and $8 million more than last year’s appropriation for Michigan navigation projects, with the possibility of significant funding beyond that increase.

“Working harbors are essential to Michigan’s economic growth, and the Appropriations Committee’s action reflects a commitment to reduce the backlog of dredging projects in Michigan and throughout the Great Lakes,” said Levin, co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force. “We’ll keep working for final passage of legislation that provides the full funding we need to keep Great Lakes harbors working.”

“Making sure that our harbors and ports are properly dredged and maintained is critical to supporting Michigan’s shipping, boating and tourism industries,” said Stabenow. “I appreciate that the appropriations committee acted on our concerns and increased funding for our harbors. I will continue working with my colleagues to make sure they understand how important this issue is for Michigan’s economy and our way of life.”

The funding levels are in keeping with the Water Resources Development Act that the Senate passed in May, which included language from Levin and Stabenow to increase harbor maintenance funding nationwide and give priority to Great Lakes navigation projects.

The fiscal 2014 appropriations bill includes $47 million for Michigan navigation projects, about $8 million more than in 2012. The committee also included more than $100 million for additional projects, including dredging and other harbor maintenance, funding that will be allocated by the Army Corps of Engineers. The committee directed the Army Corps to give priority to maintaining authorized depths and widths of harbors and shipping channels, cleaning up contaminated sediments, easing maintenance backlogs and promoting job growth and economic development – all criteria that could help Great Lakes projects compete for funding.

The legislation also includes $27.6 million for the electric dispersal barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal that prevents Asian carp from moving through the canal into the Great Lakes. And it includes language that Levin, Stabenow and other Great Lakes senators had sought that allows the Secretary of the Army, through the Army Corps of Engineers, to implement emergency measures to prevent invasive species such as Asian carp from moving into the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River basin.