The Lake Carriers’ Association said it will continue to focus its lobbying efforts on Great Lakes dredging needs in 2013.
LCA’s 2012 Annual Report, released Wednesday, said inadequate dredging took a big toll on Great Lakes shipping in 2012.
“The drought has pushed water levels on Lake Michigan and Huron to record lows,” the association said. “The water level in the St. Marys River also declined as 2012 wore on; by year’s end ships were loading to less than 26 feet. In 1997, the last period of high water, ships routinely locked through the Soo drafting 28 feet or more. That loss of draft cost some ships more than 10,000 tons of cargo on their final voyages of 2012.”
LCA praised the transportation bill passed last June, which declared “It is the sense of Congress that the administration should request full use of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund ('HMTF') for operating and maintaining the navigation channels of the United States” and the amounts in the HMTF should be fully expended to operate and maintain ports and waterways.
The HMTF has a surplus of $7 billion because it typically spends only one of every two tax dollars it collects for dredging on dredging. It is estimated the 17 million cubic yards of sediment that clog the Great Lakes Navigation System could be removed for approximately $200 million, or just 2 percent of the HMTF surplus.
Legislation requiring the HMTF to spend what it takes in for dredging on dredging received broad support in the 112th Congress and LCA said that most of the legislators who co-sponsored the House and Senate bills have returned to Washington in 2013, “so we begin the 113th Congress in our strongest position ever.” Key among legislators who are working to end the dredging crisis is Senator Carl Levin, D-Mich., the association noted.
The LCA is also focused on uniform federal regulations governing ballast water. It’s concerned that since states can and have added their own provisions to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Vessel General Permit, there is a “patchwork” of differing requirements on the Great Lakes.
Another goal is moving forward with the second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. Congress authorized twinning the Poe Lock in 2007, but a “flawed benefit/cost analysis has stalled the project,” LCA said. At the behest of Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., a new assessment is underway.
In addition, LCA wants to bolster the U.S. Coast Guard’s icebreaking resources, and as a result, an East Coast icebreaker has again been assigned to the Great Lakes for the winter of 2012/2013.
The association said it remains “firmly committed to the Jones Act and its requirement that cargo moving between U.S. ports be carried in vessels that are U.S.-crewed, U.S.-built, and U.S.-owned.”
Cleveland-based LCA represents 17 American companies that operate 57 U.S.-flag vessels on the Great Lakes.