The dredging crisis on the Great Lakes will again dominate Lake Carriers’ Association’s (LCA) efforts in 2013. LCA’s 2012 Annual Report stressed that inadequate dredging took a real toll on Great Lakes shipping in 2012. “The drought has pushed water levels on Lake Michigan and Huron to record lows,” the Association noted. “The water level in the St. Marys River also declined as 2012 wore on; by year’s end, ships were loading to less than 26 feet. In 1997, the last period of high water, ships routinely locked through the Soo drafting 28 feet or more. That loss of draft cost some ships more than 10,000 tonnes of cargo on their final voyages of 2012.”
LCA hailed the transportation bill passed last June that declared “It is the sense of Congress that the Administration should request full use of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) for operating and maintaining the navigation channels of the United States” and that the amounts in HMTF should be fully expended to operate and maintain ports and waterways. HMTF has a surplus of US$7 billion because it typically spends only one of every two tax dollars it collects for dredging on dredging. It is estimated the 17 million cubic yards of sediment that clog the Great Lakes Navigation System could be removed for approximately US$200 million, or just 2 per cent of the HMTF surplus.
Legislation requiring HMTF to spend on dredging what it takes in for dredging received broad support in the 112th Congress and LCA noted that most of the legislators who co-sponsored the House and Senate bills have returned to Washington in 2013, “so we begin the 113th Congress in our strongest position ever.”