The Michigan Senate is hoping to go beyond the $21.5 million Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed for dredging of Great Lakes harbors and ports and kick in at least another $9 million as the summer tourism season approaches.
With the record low lake levels, shipping vessels and recreational boats are grappling with having to lighten their loads in order to navigate Great Lakes’ harbors.
“Waterways in Michigan are the lifeblood in our state,” said state Sen. Geoff Hansen, R-Hart. “We’d like to start this in the early spring before the tourism season starts.”
State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, told of iron ore freighters unable to carry full loads to ship the steel pellets needed by Severstral Steel to make components for the Ford Motor Company’s F-150 trucks.
“When those ore freighters get hurt everybody gets hurt,” he said. “It’s all so tied and interconnected to our economy.”
In a press conference Tuesday morning, a group of Republican Senators, mostly from areas that include harbors and ports, said they plan to introduce legislation that would take $30 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to pay for 49 badly needed dredging projects around the state.
The U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers has promised to complete dredging projects in 4-6 commercial ports around the state that see at least 1 million tons of freight shipped into and out of the ports.
But the Senators are hoping the Corp will expand their list to some recreational ports as well. If they don’t, then the $30 million will be used to complete the dredging.
Hansen said that in addition to the $30 million this year, another $10 million to $12 million is needed in upcoming years to keep the harbors passable.
The Senate also plans to introduce legislation that would allow local units of government to create Tax Increment Financing Authorities to capture funds to pay for dredging projects themselves.
The city of Pentwater raised $55,000 last year to dredge it’s harbor