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U.S. Senate approves bill that could boost Great Lakes navigation funding

by Candice Miller on May 22, 2014

:54 PM, May 22, 2014   |
By Todd Spangler

Detroit Free Press Washington Staff

http://www.freep.com/article/20140522/NEWS06/305220242/Great-Lakes-funding-U-S-legislation

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate gave final passage to a waterresources development bill today that could substantially increas efunding for Great Lakes navigation projects, including those in Michigan.

Both Michigan senators — Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, both Democrats — supported the legislation, which now goes to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it into law quickly. The bill passed with only 4 votes against in the U.S. House earlier this week.

“Protecting our lakes and maintaining our ports, harbors and waterways is essential to keeping the economy growing and preserving Michigan’s natural beauty for generations to come,” said Stabenow. She noted it also gives the federal authorities greater tools to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

As the Free Press wrote last week when the House-Senate compromise was unveiled, the legislation doesn’t spell out how much more could be available for Great Lakes projects but should result in an increase infunding. Congressional appropriators are still left to determine how much is spent on water projects overall each year.

The bill calls for expenditures from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, built on fees collected from shippers, to increase each year so that by 2025 all of that collected is used for operation and maintenance activities. The Free Press has written how much of the fund has gone unspent desite a backlog in projects; the new legislation calls for 10% of funding increases to be dedicated to the Great Lakes.

Levin, in particular, had been agitating for years to increase funding for projects from the trust fund.

U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, was the only Michigan member of Congress to serve on the House-Senate conference committee that developed the compromise. It also included a proposal she authored along with U.S. Reps. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, and Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, to designate the Great Lakes as a comprehensive navigation system when the Army Corps of Engineers prioritizes projects.

Huizenga said that new classification “means harbors throughout the region will be able to handle more cargo, which will lead to increased economic activity and most importantly, more jobs” and put the Great Lakes on “equal footing” with other water systems in the U.S. when it comes to prioritizing infrastructure projects.

The legislation passed

 

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