GLMTF Says USACE Shorted Region on Stimulus

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force said the Great Lakes came up short when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided how to divvy up the $4.6b Congress gave it for job creation and infrastructure improvements under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Corps allocated only two percent of its stimulus dollars to the Great Lakes, leaving navigation and environmental projects in America’s heartland high and dry.

The Task Force said the eight Great Lakes states received $94m for Lakes projects out of the $4.6b Congress gave the Corps, despite the fact cargo movement can top 200 million tons a year and supports hundreds of thousands of family-sustaining jobs.

The lower-than-expected funding from the Administration, the Task Force claimed, came despite strong support for Great Lakes programs from the Great Lakes Congressional delegation.

“Can it be possible the Corps operates in such a vacuum?” said Donald Cree, President of GLMTF, the largest coalition promoting waterborne commerce on the Lakes. “America’s foundational industries
depend on the Great Lakes and Great Lakes shipping. By the Corps own analysis, Lakes shipping saves its customers $3.6 billion a year in transportation costs. Yet the Corps all but zeroed out the Great Lakes and Great Lakes shipping. Imagine the savings that could be quickly achieved if the Corps had given us our fair share. Virtually every port needs dredging. Lack of a second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, threatens to crash the system at any moment. It’s hard not to say the Corps has abdicated its responsibility to the transportation system, the region, and the nation.”

“$94 million or two percent of the Corps stimulus spending isn’t even enough to end the dredging crisis that is strangling the system,” continued Cree, who is also National Vice President – Great Lakes, for American Maritime Officers. “The Corps estimates removing the backlog of sediment – 17 million cubic yards – will cost more than $200 million.”

“The Corps decision defies logic,” said James H.I. Weakley, 1st Vice President of GLMTF, and President of Lake Carriers’ Association. “The Great Lakes basin is home to 80 percent of the nation’s steelmaking capacity, 70 percent of its auto plants, and 55 percent of all heavy manufacturing, yet we get two percent of the Corps stimulus dollars. The area is hurting. Only eight of the 36 blast furnaces are making steel. Auto plants are closing. Congress approved the stimulus package to create jobs, but someone at the Corps decided to ignore the industrial heartland.”

Indiana, the nation’s largest steel-producing state, received less than $1m for Operation and Maintenance of its Great Lakes ports. Michigan has 40 deep-draft ports and scores more recreational harbors, and received only $23m. No funding is directed toward building the second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie that Congress authorized at full Federal expense in 2007. Ohio, which ships and receives 55 million tons in a typical year, received $12m for its Lakes ports.

Minnesota’s Mesabi Range is the iron ore capital of the country, but that state received none of the stimulus funds the Corps allocated for the Lakes. New York received $3.9m. Chicago’s harbor, in the third largest city in the country, received $17.6m. Wisconsin’s share was less than $11m. Pennsylvania received no funding.

“We must again turn to Congress to fund much needed dredging and infrastructure improvements such as the second Poe-sized lock,” said Patrick J. O’Hern, 3rd Vice President of GLMTF, and Vice President and General Manager of Bay Shipbuilding Company. “The dredging crisis would be getting worse, but in the past two years, Congress, lead by our Great Lakes delegation, has added tens of millions to our dredging appropriation and enabled the Corps to start removing the backlog. We are confident Congress will remember how the Lakes were ignored in the stimulus package and right this wrong in the FY10 Appropriations bill.”

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