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Fix Funding for Shipping Industry

Posted at: 04/30/2013 4:47 PM
Updated at: 04/30/2013 5:43 PM

The need to keep our shipping industry strong was hammered home on Tuesday, during a press conference near the harbor. Mayor Don Ness, Senator Amy Klobuchar, and port leaders stood at the Great Lakes Aquarium to discuss the importance of commerce and jobs.

At issue, is the need for more dredging dollars. Dredging is what the Army Corp of Engineers does to keep the shipping channels clear and deep. Equipment digs up sediment that lines the bottom of the channels.

Each year, shipping companies pay a tax, which goes into the Harbor Maintenance Fund. But lawmakers and officials say that so much of it is diverted outside of the need it was created for.

Senator Amy Klobuchar is a co-sponsor of a bill that would restore funding for dredging. The other co-sponsor is Carl Levin, of Michigan.

"The Corp said they can get the backlog done with $200 million dollars. So we're hoping for that, and then some money for other projects that affect the industry," Klobuchar said.

Shallow channels affect the Twin Ports and Two Harbors, even though our channels are dredged adequately.

Because the shipping industry is a linked system, vessels have to go through different areas. And some of those channels aren't as deep.

Gregg Ruhl from the Great Lakes Fleet said that the Edgar B. Speer had to leave 10,000 tons of iron ore pellets light from Two Harbors on Monday. "That's capacity we can never get back, like a flight leaving with seats open. 10,000 tons of pellets are like a full shift at a large mine, and would help make 6,700 tons of steel. That steel could make 8,000 automobiles," Ruhl said.

Adolph Ojard said that he's concerned about the potential loss of business for all of the ports, if this continues. He's testified recently at the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.

Klobuchar said that she expects the Harbor Maintenance Act to be discussed after Congress takes up a piece of marketplace legislation. It's included in the larger Water Resources Development Act.