A bipartisan group of Great Lakes senators, led by Great Lakes Task Force co-chairs Sen. Carl Levin and Sen. Mark Kirk, wrote today to Army Corps of Engineers leaders, urging them to direct additional funding for harbor maintenance projects to reduce the backlog of projects in the Great Lakes.
The letter, from members of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force to Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy and Chief of Engineers Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, asks that Great Lakes projects receive at least $30 million of the $200 million in additional navigation funding included in the omnibus appropriations bill Congress approved in January.
“In order for [The Great Lakes] navigational infrastructure to function well, harbors and channels need to be dredged, breakwaters need to be maintained and locks need to operate effectively,” the letter said. “The system, however, has not been adequately maintained and faces a backlog of critical dredging needs, including construction and expansion of dredged material management facilities; aging locks in need of repair and modernization and deteriorating navigation structures such as breakwaters, piers and jetties.”
“The backlog in dredging projects, along with low lake levels in recent years, has forced vessels to light-load, grounded vessels, impeded safe navigation, closed harbors and threatened other harbors with closure,” the letter continued. “The lack of maintenance to locks and breakwaters, along with a lack of adequate dredged material disposal facilities, necessitates a significant portion of the additional funds be directed to Great Lakes projects.”
Glen Nekvasil, Vice President of the Lake Carriers’ Association said his organization “appreciates the efforts of our Great Lakes Senators to end the dredging crisis.”
“The Great Lakes Navigation System is choking on the 17 million cubic yards of sediment that have collected in ports and waterways because of chronic underfunding of dredging. At times our largest vessels have been forfeiting more than 10,000 tons of cargo each trip,” Nekvasil said. “The additional funds will help reduce the dredging backlog and allow vessels of all flags to carry more cargo on the Lakes.”
The letter was signed by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), Co-Chair Mark Kirk (D-Ill.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Co-Chair Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).