Federal Government Must Act to Maintain Harbors

Properly maintaining a harbor is critical to the port’s economic viability and the financial bottom line of shippers and importers. A lack of dredging in Southwest Michigan harbors is forcing ship operators to carry lighter loads, costing them millions of dollars.

That is why I co-sponsored Senate Resolution 97, calling on the U.S. Congress to ensure funds collected from shippers are used exclusively as intended: to maintain and dredge our nation’s harbors. It has been referred to the Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee for consideration.

Congress established a federal harbor maintenance tax on shippers in 1986 to fund harbor operations and maintenance at U.S. ports.

However, even though the federal Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund has a balance of nearly $6 billion, the critical dredging needs of Great Lakes harbors have not been met.

In fact, despite collecting almost $1.5 billion in maintenance taxes from shippers last year, only $758 million was actually spent to dredge harbors in Michigan and other coastal states.

That is unacceptable.

Sustaining a healthy harbor is important on several fronts: It supports Southwest Michigan jobs in an increasingly global economy, fosters entrepreneurship and protects our state’s great natural resources.

Our shippers have fulfilled their obligations to support harbor maintenance; it is now time for the federal government to do their job.

This resolution will send a message to Washington that their failure to act is hurting our economic recovery and costing us jobs.

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