Governor Rick Snyder (R-MI), Co-Chair of the Council of Great Lakes Governors (CGLG) said, "I applaud the Congressmen for working to enact what is really a simple solution to a major problemactually spending funds already collected for the purpose of harbor maintenance on harbor maintenance. This solution is critical for our region's ports and harbors, and for the national economy." Governor Pat Quinn (D-IL), Co-Chair said, "Congress must act to provide relief to our harbors. Drought and low water levels have created a crisis that is only compounded by the failure to spend federal funds that have already been collected and set aside for just this purpose."
The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) was created in 1986 to establish a dedicated funding source for dredging and other required maintenance of the nation's coastal harbors. Cargo vessels are assessed a user fee on imported and domestic cargo arriving at U.S. ports and harbors. Recent annual revenue from these fees has totaled about $1.5 billion, but only about half of that amount has been spent on its intended purpose. This trend has led to inadequate dredging of harbors and ports, which forces ships to carry lighter cargo loads and increases the cost per ton to move cargo. As the Great Lakes water levels reach historic lows, this problem has been exacerbated and hindered job creation, economic growth and competitiveness.
The President's FY2013 budget includes $31 million for dredging Great Lakes harbors but the Federal government estimates that about twice that amount is needed in this year alone. Further, the total backlog of dredging needs for Great Lakes harbors totals approximately $200 million. Failure to address these needs jeopardizes our region's ports, particularly smaller ports that provide the livelihood of many smaller cities and towns. For instance, the ports of Waukegan, Illinois, and St. Joseph, Michigan, recently faced closure because of inadequate dredging.
A release from CGLG indicates that the legislation will ensure that all funds deposited into the trust fund in a given fiscal year are fully expended. A broad, national coalition supports this long-term solution to more closely tie trust fund expenditures to revenues, maintain the nation's ports and harbors, and bolster the American economy.