Toledo, Ohio – The end of the Great Lakes dredging crisis came a step closer to reality yesterday when the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4348 and included a provision which could lead to substantially increased funding for Great Lakes dredging.
The amendment directs that all funding collected in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund be spent on dredging each year. Currently, the Fund has a $7 billion surplus. More than 16 million cubic yards of sediment clog Great Lakes ports and waterways because funding for dredging has been inadequate for decades.
“Passage of H.R. 4348 with the Boustany amendment represents further progress in requiring that the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund monies all be spent on dredging each year,” said Eugene Caldwell, President of Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, the largest labor-management coalition ever to promote waterborne commerce on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway.
Caldwell is also Vice President and General Manager of Bay Shipbuilding Company in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.
“This is important progress as this legislation moves forward toward a House-Senate Conference Committee,” said Caldwell.
The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund has always had enough money to dredge all the nation’s deep-draft ports and waterways. It typically collects $1.6 billion in taxes each year, but only spends about half that total.
“The dredging crisis has limited Great Lakes shipping’s ability to efficiently serve America’s industrial heartland,” said Don Cree, First Vice President of GLMTF and Great Lakes Special Assistant to the National President for American Maritime Officers, a labor union representing licensed officers on many Great Lakes vessels. “Ships designed to carry more than 70,000 tons of iron ore or coal each trip have routinely left port with 10 percent or more of their hauling power unused. The lost carrying capacity has effectively decreased the capacity of the Great Lakes-Seaway system.”