President Obama Signs Bill with Slaughter-Backed Provision to Help Great Lakes Communities Access More Federal Funds
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY), co-chair of the House Great Lakes Task Force, praised the signing of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) into law. This bill includes a provision establishing the Great Lakes Navigation System (GLNS). Congresswoman Slaughter has been a long-time advocate for the GLNS and introduced legislation in June of 2013.
“Today is a momentous day for Great Lakes communities because for the first time, the Great Lakes will be treated as one entity by the federal government. The establishment of the Great Lakes Navigation System is a long-awaited, historic step in joining our region’s ports and waterways to ensure they are adequately maintained through unified funding,” said Rep. Slaughter. “Maintaining the Great Lakes is critical to our economy, and now Great Lakes communities can work together instead of competing against each other for funding and maintenance. With a dedicated funding stream, the Great Lakes Navigation System will continue to support and grow the more than 130,000 jobs along the Great Lakes and over $18 billion in annual revenue.”
In the past, Great Lakes communities had to compete with each other to win adequate funding for maintenance projects. With this new designation as a single “navigation system,” Great Lakes communities will be able to advocatetogether for federal funding instead of competingamongst themselves. The legislation also designates 10 percent of funding from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for Great Lakes activities, another program pushed for by Slaughter. The Great Lakes represent 20 percent of the world’s entire supply of fresh water.
Today, Rep. Slaughter led a letter to the Assistant Secretary of the Army outlining the critical provisions of the GLNS as enacted by Congress in WRRDA and signed into law. The GLNS ensures that Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway be prioritized as a single, comprehensive and interdependent navigation system for budgetary purposes. The GLNS will ensure that when the Army Corps prioritizes projects for funding, that they does so in a way that considers the interdependence of the ports and harbors rather than looking at each project individually.
The Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River combine to form the longest deep-draft navigation system in the world, extending 2,300 miles into the North American heartland and comprise nearly 20% of the world’s fresh water.
Read the full letter here:
June 6, 2014
The Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy
Assistant Secretary of the Army, Civil Works
108 Army Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20310-0108
Dear Secretary Darcy:
As Members of Congress from Great Lakes states, we write to you today to respectfully offer guidance on a critical provision contained in the recently enacted Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) – the Great Lakes Navigation System (GLNS).
As you are aware, the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River combine to form the longest deep-draft navigation system in the world, extending 2,300 miles into the North American heartland. The Great Lakes alone provide more than 20 percent of the world’s fresh water supply and is home to 140 U.S. commercial and recreational harbors, two locks connecting Lake Superior to the lower Lakes, 104 miles of breakwalls and jetties, and 600-plus miles of federal navigation channels.
Every year, more than 160 million metric tons of raw materials, agricultural commodities and manufactured products move on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System, including iron ore that is used for steel production that supports the auto industry and grains that feed the nation. These cargos generate and sustain nearly 130,000 living-wage jobs in the eight Great Lakes states alone.
WRRDA, which was recently passed by wide margins by both chambers of Congress and signed into law by President Obama, established the GLNS. The intent of the GLNS is to view the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway as a single, comprehensive and interdependent navigation system for budgetary purposes. This is important because it will ensure that when the Army Corps prioritizes its project funding it does so in a way that considers the interdependence of the ports and harbors rather than looking at each project individually. For example, it makes no sense for the Army Corps of Engineers to maintain the St. Mary’s River and St. Clair River navigation channels at shallower depths than the harbors they connect. Likewise, Great Lakes steel manufacturing cities not only need their harbors dredged, they also need the harbors that provide the raw materials needed to make steel to be dredged as well. This designation is meant to sustain an effective and efficient operations and maintenance budget for the Great Lakes.
The language in Section 2102(a) makes it clear that all individually authorized projects shall be managed as components of a single, comprehensive system. This carefully selected verbiage imposes a duty on the Army Corps of Engineers to take into account the interconnectedness and interdependence of the projects in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway. Of the 140 federally authorized projects in the GLNS, only 20 percent are addressed on a yearly basis. Proper management and funding for the system can provide the needed flexibility and support to address the current backlog of dredging and guarantee future growth of the system.
Two decades of inadequate funding has left the GLNS with a more than 20 million cubic yard navigation channel maintenance dredging backlog and tens of miles of crumbling breakwalls and jetties. Reducing this maintenance backlog will require increased funding and a system-wide approach to planning maintenance activities.
We look forward to working with you as the Army Corps moves forward with implementing the GLNS as it was intended.
Candice S. Miller John D. Dingell
Member of Congress Member of Congress
Sean P. Duffy Louise M. Slaughter
Member of Congress Member of Congress