U.S. Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan welcomed Senate passage today of the Water Resources Development Act including important provisions they fought for to reduce the backlog of harbor dredging projects in the Great Lakes.
"For too long, harbors in the Great Lakes and across the country have suffered from a maintenance backlog, while at the same time we've been spending only a portion of the available money in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund," Levin said. "This bill makes progress toward ensuring that fees collected for harbor maintenance are actually spent for their intended purpose, and that a significant portion of new funding for harbor maintenance will go to the Great Lakes."
"It is critically important for the health of the Great Lakes and Michigan's economy that our harbors and ports are properly dredged and get the basic maintenance they need to support our shipping, boating and tourism industries," said Stabenow. "For too long, Congress has been taking resources from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to use in other areas. This bill helps ensure Michigan gets the resources we need to keep our harbors open and productive so they can continue driving our Great Lakes economy."
Among important provisions in the legislation:
-It includes a provision increasing authorized spending for harbor maintenance projects to $1 billion for harbor maintenance in fiscal year 2014, compared to about $850 million in 2012, and raising authorizations by an additional $100 million every year through 2019 (for a total of $1.5 billion per year from 2020 on). The provisions make progress toward the goal of Levin's Harbor Maintenance Act, cosponsored by Stabenow, to increase harbor maintenance funding.
-The bill sets aside 20 percent of authorized harbor maintenance funds above fiscal 2012 levels for Great Lakes projects. Levin, Stabenow and other Great Lakes senators had fought for the language, which improves provisions included in the bill approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
-It includes a Levin amendment, which Stabenow cosponsored, making clear that maintaining the width and depth of ports is the primary purpose of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and that those projects should receive priority.
The Senate passed the bill by an 83-14 vote, and it now goes to the House for action.