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Thirteen Michigan Ports Would Not Be Maintained Under Budget Request

The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force has responded to the Administration budget request with this statement:

"The Administration’s proposed dredging budget for FY12 will not spend one dollar on 13 Michigan ports that collectively average more than 31 millions of cargo per year, this despite the fact those tons were taxed and the revenue deposited in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund that bankrolls the government’s dredging program. Two of the ports, Alpena and Charlevoix, make Michigan the Cement Capitol of the Great Lakes, but they and other major harbors will go undredged under the budget proposed by the Administration.

"Great Lakes shipping has long been a cornerstone of Michigan’s economy. The state has 38 active deep-draft ports, nearly as many as the other seven Great Lakes states combined. The ports of Calcite, Presque Isle, Port Inland, Cedarville, and Drummond Island account for the lion’s share of the 35-40 million tons of limestone that move on the Lakes in a boom economy. Escanaba and Marquette typically account for 25 percent of the iron ore shipped on the Fourth Sea Coast."

"Ports that won’t be dredged next year are: Presque Isle (UP); Marquette; Menominee; St. Joseph; Holland; Muskegon; Ludington; Charlevoix; Alpena; Saginaw; Marysville; St. Clair; and Monroe.

"The Administration’s proposed budget slashes the Lakes dredging program system-wide, but 63 percent of the cuts fall on Michigan harbors.

"Employers who depend on shipments through ports on Michigan’s west coast potentially face cessation of waterborne deliveries if ports such as St. Joseph aren’t dredged in 2012. 'We are located on the St. Joseph River, about one mile upstream of Lake Michigan,' said Pete Berghoff, president of Dock 63 Inc. 'The river carries a significant amount of sediment which over time builds shoals throughout the inner and outer harbor. In 2008, a combination of flood-level run-off due to rapid snowmelt and unusually heavy rainfall pushed so much sediment into the inner harbor we lost more than 16 feet of draft between January 1 and mid-March. We need regular maintenance dredging to keep the ships coming, especially in this period of low water levels,' he said.

"What’s ironic about the Administration’s budget is that so many dredging companies are based in Michigan. Durocher Marine, Luedtke Engineering, MCM Marine, and Ryba Marine Construction are among the leading dredgers on the Great Lakes. 'Michigan dredgers are dedicated to keeping Great Lakes ports open for business,' said Kurt Luedtke, president of Luedtke Engineering in Frankfort, Michigan. 'If these Michigan ports aren’t dredged, the increased costs that result from a vessel carrying less cargo will disadvantage employers and have environmental impacts as well. If trains and trucks get the cargo that ships currently move, they will burn more fuel and put more greenhouse gases into the environment,' he said.

"Jobs are the big concern for Tom Orzechowski, vice president, Lakes and Inland Waters for the Seafarers International Union (SIU), who is based in Algonac, Michigan. 'More than 1,300 men and women work on U.S.-flag Great Lakes freighters. They and their employers successfully compete with other modes of transportation because vessels can move so much more cargo each trip, as much as 70,000 tons when water levels are high. But on January 1 of this year, one of the ships we crew could only load 60,400 tons of coal for delivery to the Belle River power plant in St. Clair. Coal deliveries resumed to Marquette last week and a ship that should deliver about 60,000 tons carried only 54,000 tons. We need more dredging, not less.'

"Michigan legislators are hard at work on solving the dredging problem long-term. Senator Carl Levin (D) has authored a bill, S. 412, that would require the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to spend what it takes in each year, about $1.6 billion, rather than use the surplus to paper balance the Federal budget. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates $200 million will restore the entire Great Lakes Navigation System to project depth. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D) quickly cosponsored the legislation.
A companion bill – H.R. 104 – has been introduced in the House. Currently the legislation has 51 co-sponsors.

"Michigan members of the House who have signed H.R. 104 are Dan Benishek (R); Hansen Clarke (D); Bill Huizenga (R); Candice Miller (R); and Fred Upton (R)."

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