WASHINGTON -- U.S. Representatives Candice Miller (MI-10), Bill Huizenga (MI-02) and Dan Benishek (MI-01) have introduced the Great Lakes Navigation System Sustainability Act to modernize the current Great Lakes Navigation System. This legislation would establish a single, comprehensive Great Lakes Navigation System for budgeting purposes. It would take all the individually authorized commercial and recreational navigation projects in the Great Lakes and recognize them as a unified entity to ensure adequate funding. This legislation also creates a program to help reduce the harbor maintenance backlog. It does not create any new spending, instead uses existing funds from the underutilized Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to establish a cost-share program that makes these funds available by giving priority to harbors that provide a 50% cost-share for a Great Lakes Navigation System project. Joining Miller, Huizenga and Benishek as original co-sponsors: Representatives Louise Slaughter (NY-25) and Brian Higgins (NY-26).
"Our Great Lakes harbors and supporting waterways create and sustain hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the entire region and the commerce carried on the Great Lakes contributes greatly to the entire nation's economy. Throughout my career in public service, I have recognized the important role the Great Lakes play in our economy and have advocated and worked to improve our harbors and waterways infrastructure on the Great Lakes. Simply put, more efficient Great Lakes shipping helps to create a strong U.S. economy. In order to grow and strengthen our regional and national economy we must ensure our harbors and waterways are provided the resources they need," stated Congresswoman Miller.
Miller added, "There is currently a backlog of needed dredging projects that will cost $200 million to remove 18 million yards of sand and silt to enable the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin harbors to become fully functional. By using existing funds to implement a program where the federal government and state and local communities work together, this legislation will help eliminate this backlog. This partnership is important now more than ever as the Great Lakes continue to experience historic low water levels. By treating the Great Lakes as a system, our nation will utilize the user-funds collected under the Harbor Maintenance Tax for their intended purpose â€" operations and maintenance of our nation's ports and harbors. For years much of this fund, which was created through fees placed on shippers, has sat unspent or used for other purposes while important infrastructure projects have been ignored. My goal is to incorporate this legislation into the Water Resources Development Act the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is set to begin work on."