Press Releases

Upton Votes to Support Great Lakes Jobs, Harbor Maintenance

Bipartisan agreement includes a number of provisions to ensure more adequate funding for Lake Michigan harbors

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Washington, DC, May 20, 2014 | Lynn Turner / Nick Culp (269-385-0039 / 202-225-3761) | comments

Nearly one-third of America’s gross domestic product (GDP) is derived from international trade and 99 percent of that trade passes through the nation’s ports. Today, by a nearly unanimous vote of 412 to 4, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bipartisan, bicameral agreement – the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014 – to maintain and modernize the nation’s water transportation infrastructure. The comprehensive legislation authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out its mission to develop, maintain, and support the infrastructure of our nation’s ports and waterways as well as support environmental restoration and flood protection efforts. Congressman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph – a longtime advocate for Lake Michigan harbors – praised the bill as a major victory for the Great Lakes and the thousands of workers whose jobs depend upon them.

“As everyone in Michigan knows, our Great Lakes play a vital role in our economy – from supporting local tourism and recreational traffic to allowing for the commercial shipment of goods and raw materials. I am very pleased that, after months of negotiations, the House and Senate were able to reach a bipartisan agreement to ensure our harbors and waterways remain open and operational.

“This agreement is a big win for the Great Lakes in particular. I am especially pleased to see long-overdue steps taken to ensure the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) is solely used for its intended purpose: maintaining our nation’s harbors. The misallocation of these dollars have left our local ports and waterways seriously underfunded for years; the reforms in this bill will help change that.”

WRRDA requires that federal revenues collected for harbor maintenance and operations through the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) are fully used for their intended purpose. Without the passage of WRDDA, roughly half of those dollars would continue to go unspent, creating a HMTF surplus that is used instead as a budgetary gimmick to offset other federal spending.

WRRDA sets minimum authorization levels for the HMTF and requires 100 percent of it be spent by 2025. Today’s agreement also mandates that at least 10 percent of HMTF dollars be spent on smaller ports.

The bill also includes language authored by Michigan Reps. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, and Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland and cosponsored by Upton that designates the entire Great Lakes Navigation System (GLNS) as a single, unified system for budgetary purposes. Rather than forcing Great Lakes harbors to compete for funding like coastal ports, this important provision recognizes the economic benefits of their interdependence and will help ensure consistent future funding.

“This important designation will finally allow our local harbors to present a unified front when competing for vital funding and resources,” Upton said.

The GLNS is a continuous waterway that extends more than 2,400 miles from the far reaches of Lake Superior to the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the Atlantic Ocean. The U.S. portion of the GLNS consists of 140 harbors (60 commercial; 80 recreational), two operational locks, 104 miles of breakwaters and jetties, and more than 600 miles of maintained navigational channels.

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