LANSING— Sen. John Proos and the members of the Senate Waterways Caucus announced on Tuesday that the Senate is unified in the understanding that Michigan’s ports, harbors and waterways must be adequately and consistently maintained to provide for long-term protection of both natural resources and related economic activity.
“Historically low water levels and a lack of dredging in Michigan harbors by the federal government are teaming up to impact the health and economic vitality of our waterways,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “Ships are currently forced to carry lighter loads – impacting their bottom lines and our economy – and now the problem is affecting recreational boating. The Senate is strongly committed to working on a plan of action that includes both short- and long-term answers to the problems facing our waters.”
Proos has previously called on Congress to use the more than $6 billion balance in the federal Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to meet the critical dredging needs of Great Lakes harbors. He noted that Michigan lacks the statutory authority and funding options to fully meet this need and changes to state law will probably be necessary.
“The need for action to maintain our vital ports is urgent – especially in shoreline communities like Southwest Michigan that depend heavily on tourism,” Proos said. “I applaud the governor for making state funding for dredging a priority, but we must adopt a long-term agenda that ensures our harbors, ports and waterways are accessible and sustainable for years to come.”
Proos noted that in 2011, tourists spent $1 billion at Michigan businesses, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the state tourism group Travel Michigan.
Possible solutions outlined by the Senate Waterways Caucus include complementing the governor’s budget proposal with both short- and long-term dedicated funding; key statutory fixes to ensure a long-term dedicated funding source; development of a long-term strategy that provides a real solution to the state’s annual struggles with dredging needs; providing more tools for local financing of dredging activities; and urging a new Great Lakes Basin plan for promotion of Great Lakes harbors and ports.
Legislation is expected to be introduced shortly for discussion and consideration.
Editor’s Note: A print-quality photograph is available by visiting Sen. Proos’ website at: www.SenatorJohnProos.com. Click on “Photowire.”
Video and Audio comments by Sen. Proos also are available on the webpage under “Podcasts” and “Video.”