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Miller leads Michigan’s congressional fight for more dredging money

by Candice Miller on December 2, 2013

Marisa Schultz

Detroit News Washington  Bureau

From The Detroit News:

Washington— U.S.  Rep. Candice Miller is championing the Great Lakes as the lone Michigan  representative among a group of bipartisan lawmakers seeking compromise on  critical legislation that would authorize long overdue dredging and harbor  projects.

Miller, R-Harrison  Township, co-sponsored the House version of the Water Resources Reform and  Development Act that passed in October with bipartisan support in a 417-3 vote.  The Senate approved its version in May by a vote of 83-14.

The Senate bill  would cost $12.2 billion over 10 years, compared with $8.2 billion in the House  version, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Both the House and  Senate versions include provisions written by Michigan lawmakers to better  direct federal funds to end the backlog of Great Lakes dredging projects, but  Miller is at the table with three dozen lawmakers to ensure such language makes  the final version of the legislation.

In kicking off the  talks Nov. 20, Miller highlighted the importance of the Great Lakes to the  nation’s drinking water supply and shipping industry. She  advocated new language that treats the Great Lakes for the first time as a  single navigation system instead of pitting its ports against each other for  federal funding.

“I come from  Michigan — the Great Lakes state,” Miller said. “The Great Lakes are in our DNA  — that is our very identity.”

The House-passed  version includes provisions written by Miller and fellow Michigan lawmakers —  Reps. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, and Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland — designed to  treat the Great Lakes as one unit for budgeting purposes and to ensure their  harbors receive adequate funding.

Huizenga said the  legislation would help shorten the dredging backlog in the Great Lakes and  better position harbors to compete for needed funding. They have been hampered  by an estimated 18 million cubic yards of sediment clogging Great Lakes ports  and waterways.

The Senate-passed  bill included key provisions championed by Michigan Sens. Carl Levin, D-Detroit,  and Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, to also reduce the backlog of Great Lakes  dredging projects. They fought for increased spending for harbor maintenance,  priority funding for ports and language to better ensure the Harbor Maintenance  Trust Fund is spent on its intended purpose.

Levin and Stabenow  recently joined 11 other senators in sending a letter to House and Senate  leaders calling for at least 15 percent of all money spent from  the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund annually to be used for supporting the Great  Lakes navigation system.

In opening the conference committee,  chairwoman and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and her house counterpart, Rep.  Bill Shuster, R-Pa., expressed optimism they can build on bipartisanship and  find agreement.

After Miller spoke,  Boxer assured her the Great Lakes would not be forgotten.

“If I could recount  how many times I heard the words ‘Great Lakes’ during our deliberations, it  would please you,” Boxer said. “So I think with all the fighting for the Great  Lakes, I don’t think you have to worry too much about the final product.”

Detroit News Staff Writer Jim Lynch contributed.

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