Rep. Miller Successfully Moves Forward Legislation Creating First-Ever Great Lakes Navigation System

Sep 19, 2013

H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 aimed at directly supporting jobs and our nation’s economy

WASHINGTON – U.S. Representative Candice Miller (MI-10), member of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, today participated in the Committee’s markup of H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 (WRRDA).  Included in H.R. 3080, is Miller’s provision designating all ports and harbors on the Great Lakes as a single, comprehensive navigation system for budgeting purposes – essentially allowing the Great Lakes ports and harbors to create a unified front when it comes to federal funding.  H.R. 3080 was passed out of the Committee by a bipartisan and unanimous voice vote, and now heads to the full U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.  Miller said:

“The WRRDA legislation that we passed out of Committee today significantly boosts funding for our Great Lakes harbors and ports.  The funding for our nation’s harbors provided by the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund will see higher spending targets, ensuring that more funding is dedicated to actually improving our maritime infrastructure.  Specifically, the WRRDA bill provides a clear recognition of the Great Lakes as an important and unique navigation system.  Included in the bill is language which would establish a single, comprehensive Great Lakes Navigation System.  This inclusion is important because it would take all the individually authorized commercial and recreational navigation projects in the Great Lakes and recognize them as a unified entity to ensure adequate funding.  For far too long, the coastal states have dominated previous water resources legislation funding and this new bill demonstrates the significance of other regions to our nation’s water infrastructure and economy. 

“Throughout my lifetime, protecting and preserving our magnificent Great Lakes have always been a principal advocacy of mine.  Our Great Lakes harbors and supporting waterways create and sustain hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the entire region and the commerce carried on the Great Lakes contributes greatly to the entire nation’s economy.  The WRRDA bill will ensure the focus remains on boosting our maritime jobs and economy and I look forward to its consideration by the Full House for passage.”

Background: Unlike the coastal port ranges, waterborne commerce on the Great Lakes consists of an interdependent system of connecting channels linking ports both large and small.  Currently, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers treats the Mississippi, Ohio and Illinois rivers as “systems” for budgeting purposes – but instead it views the Great Lakes as a collection of individual channels and ports, essentially pitting them against one another for funding.  Additionally, the WRRDA legislation will assist our recreational harbors by allowing federal navigation maintenance funding to come from non-federal sources and to enter into public-private partnerships for projects.

While the other waterway channels and ports in our nation have access to funding, our Great Lakes waterways are faced with decades of inadequate funding for dredging and infrastructure maintenance and modernization. 

The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund was established in 1986 to fund the operation and maintenance of ports and harbors (such as dredging, dredged material disposal areas, jetties, and breakwaters) and is funded by the Harbor Maintenance Tax.  The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund was approximately $7 billion at the end of FY12 and continues to grow by hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

Groups supporting the designation of a unified Great Lakes Navigation System are:
The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition, the Lake Carriers’ Association, the American Great Lakes Ports Association, the Great Lakes Small Harbors Coalition, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, Council of Great Lakes Governors, the United States Great Lakes Shipping Association, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and the Great Lakes Commission.

Additional Background:
Relevant Provisions for MI-10 within the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013:

• Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (Section 201)
-- Sets spending targets starting at 65% (FY14) and increasing to 80 % (FY20) of projected HMTF revenue (includes HMT collections and interest).  This increase will happen incrementally between FY14-FY20.
-- Sets aside up to 5% of these amounts (if targets are reached) for expanded uses (berth dredging and legacy contaminated sediment disposal) for harbors that “collect” more HMT than is spent to maintain them.  

• Small Ports (“Emerging Ports”) Set-Aside (Section 202(b)(3))
--10% set-aside for FY15-16 for harbors with less than 1 million tons cargo.

• Great Lakes Navigation System (Section 202(b)(5))
-- Requires the Army Corps of Engineers to manage and fund all the ports and harbors on the Great Lakes as a single, comprehensive navigation system.

• Non-Federal Funding of Projects (Section 203)
-- Allows federal navigation maintenance funding to come from non-federal sources and to enter into public-private partnerships.

Highlights of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013:
Reforms Bureaucracy, Accelerates Project Delivery, and Streamlines Environmental Reviews

•  Sets hard deadlines on the time and cost of studies
•  Consolidates or eliminates duplicative or unnecessary studies and requires concurrent reviews
•  Streamlines environmental reviews

Fiscally Responsible
•  Deauthorizes $12 billion of old, inactive projects that were authorized prior to WRDA 2007
•  Fully offsets new authorizations with deauthorizations
•  Sunsets new authorizations to prevent future project backlogs
•  Reduces the inventory of properties that are not needed for the missions of the Corps

Strengthens Oversight, Transparency, and Accountability
•  NO earmarks
•  Establishes a new, transparent process for future bills to review and prioritize water resources development activities with strong Congressional oversight

Increases Flexibility for Non-Federal Interests
•  Maximizes the ability of non-federal interests to contribute their own funds to move authorized studies and projects forward
•  Expands the ability of non-federal interests to contribute funds to expedite the evaluation and processing of permits
•  Establishes a Water Infrastructure Public Private Partnership Program

Improves Competitiveness, Creates Jobs, and Strengthens Water Resources Infrastructure
•  Authorizes needed investments in America’s ports
•  Supports underserved, emerging ports
•  Reforms and preserves the Inland Waterways Trust Fund
•  Authorizes priority water resources infrastructure improvements recommended by the Chief of the Army Corps of Engineers to improve navigation and commerce and address flood risk management, hurricane and storm damage risk reduction, and environmental restoration needs

Click here for more information about WRRDA, including text of the introduced bill and a document describing the importance of WRRDA and how it will improve American infrastructure and competitiveness.