Last month, the U.S. House passed legislation we feel will greatly benefit many smaller waterfront communities not only in Michigan but in the entire Great Lakes Region. The Water Resources Reform and Development Act puts the Great Lakes on equal footing with other regions of the country in budgeting for dredging and other harbor maintenance according to supporters.
In an era where it seems House members of opposing parties don't talk to each other let alone agree on legislation, the measure passed with overwhelming bipartisan support on a vote of 417-3. Among other provisions, the act allows Congress to update harbor infrastructure policies to meet economic changes. We applaud this bill and hope it finds smooth sailing in the Senate where it is now in a conference committee.
According to an article in the Benton Harbor Herald-Palliadium, a key provision of the bill designates the system of harbors connecting waterways in the Great Lakes as a single entity for budgeting purposes. Which, according to officials, means funding could be allocated where its needed, which is, we feel an important change over the current system whereby harbors compete for funding.
With the change, smaller ports would no longer count less in funding consideration than large-volume harbors for maintenance funding.
The provision designating the Great Lakes Navigation System was drawn from legislation cosponsored by U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph.
He said the provision is important because it recognizes the economic benefits of the interdependent harbor system and will held ensure future funding.
"As folks in Michigan know, our harbors not only bring goods and raw materials to our communities, but jobs and economic opportunity," Upton said. "Whether for commercial shipments or recreational traffic, it is critical that our waterways are well-maintained and operational."
We applaud the work of Upton and others in getting this important measure through the often contentious U.S. House. We hope the bill would mean continued funding for local ports and marinas such as Ontonagon which rely on federal funds for dredging and other harbor maintenance, and urge Michigan's Senator's to see that it swiftly makes its way through the process.