Congresswoman Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), Co-Chair of the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force, announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to dredge the Port of Rochester and Irondequoit Bay. After receiving a letter from Slaughter in March urging the Corps to obligate funding for dredging purposes, the Corps expects to begin dredging in 2014. The exact start date of the project is subject to the weather. The Port of Rochester imports $2 million worth of goods every year, and since 2008, 97,000 tons of material has been shipped or received through the Rochester Harbor.
"This is fantastic news for our community, and a huge relief to businesses that rely on these harbors to import and export goods," said Congresswoman Slaughter. "These businesses have been struggling to stay afloat because of sediment buildup, and dredging will allow them to maintain their operations and retain jobs. Furthermore, this project will benefit our recreational boaters, help attract tourism dollars, and help restore our way of life. I thank the U.S. Army Corps for their decision, and I'm looking forward to the start of the project next year."
This long awaited news comes after Congresswoman Slaughter's tireless advocacy for maintenance of the federal harbors along the lake shore. On March 27, 2013, Slaughter sent a letter to Assistant Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, requesting that funding be made available for the dredging all harbors in Lake Ontario.
As recently as 2008, Slaughter secured almost $1.5 million that allowed the Port of Rochester to be dredged. Since then, more than 244,000 cubic yards of sediment have accumulated along the harbor, making it nearly impossible for many ships to navigate the waterway. The process of dredging, or removing the built up sediment along the coast will allow the Port, one of Rochester's greatest geographic advantages, to be once again fully operational.
Congresswoman Slaughter has also endorsed long-term solutions to the dredging issue. She has been a co-sponsor of the Realizing America's Maritime Promise (RAMP) Act, legislation that would no longer allow Congress to raid the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which collects over a billion dollars annually from the shippers who use harbors, and direct that revenue towards the operations and maintenance costs of federal harbors like the Port of Rochester. Every year, Congress spends less than half of this revenue on maintenance, and instead diverts funding away from small harbors like the Port of Rochester and Irondequoit Bay toward other federal programs. Presently, the Corps spends 99 percent of its operations and maintenance budget for large harbors and less than one percent for harbors like the Port of Rochester.