2013 Briefing Recap: WRRDA in the House: Impacts on the Great Lakes

On Friday, September 13, 2013, NEMWI hosted a briefing on the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, recently introduced in the House of Representatives, and potential impacts of such a bill on the Great Lakes region. Attendees heard from Jim Weakley with the Lake Carriers Association; Steve Fisher with the American Great Lakes Ports Association; and Matt Doss with the Great Lakes Commission. Jim Weakley began by providing background on navigation and shipping on the Great Lakes, including the dredging backlog of $200 M, and how low water levels compound this backlog. He also provided information on the economic impacts of shipping in the Great Lakes region, including the $3.6 B saved annually by transporting goods via vessel rather than via rail or by truck. Steve Fisher offered an overview and comparison of the specific Operations and Maintenance (which includes dredging and other harbor maintenance) within the Senate and House bills, highlighting the benefits of designating the Great Lakes as a navigation system to receive federal support, rather than having the ports compete against each other. He also highlighted the challenges within the bills with securing sufficient funding out of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which is funded through fees meant to support harbor maintenance activities. Matt Doss noted the Great Lakes Commission historical and recent support, along with six other Great Lakes groups, for adequate harbor maintenance. He also noted the impacts on invasive species, such as Asian carp, and habitat restoration that a WRDA bill can have for the Great Lakes. All attendees affirmed their support for passage of WRRDA, in order to conference with the Senate. The House Great Lakes Task Force co-chairs, Reps. Candice Miller (MI-10), John Dingell (MI-12), Sean Duffy (WI-07), and Louise Slaughter (NY-25), served as honorary co-sponsors for the briefing. NEMWI provided an overview of the Senate bill after its passage back in May. Presentation materials are available here.