U.S. water resources and development legislation agreed upon by a House-Senate conference committee will boost federal funding for the Great Lakes, especially for harbors, as the final bill includes the Great Lakes Navigation System that was pushed by Rep. Candice Miller.
The legislation would direct the Army Corps of Engineers to aggregate the cargo tonnage of all 60 federally maintained ports on the Great Lakes for purposes of prioritizing annual funding allocations nationwide.
The Corps has taken a “system” approach to the Mississippi, Ohio, and Illinois rivers, but treated the Great Lakes as a collection of individual ports and pitted them against one another rather than acknowledging the economic benefits resulting from their interdependence.
According to The Washington Post, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee released the conference report on the water resources bill on Thursday. House and Senate negotiators created a bill that eliminates $18 billion in old or obsolete programs, more than the cost of new programs authorized. The bill contains no earmarks or pork barrel projects, House GOP aides emphasized.
Miller, a Harrison Township Republican and the only Member of Congress from Michigan appointed to the conference committee to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), issued the following statement on the final agreement:
"I am extremely pleased to announce that our final bill includes provisions that will significantly benefit our Great Lakes, including my provision originally incorporated in the House bill that will, for the first time ever, designate all ports and harbors on the Great Lakes as a single, comprehensive navigation system.
This new designation will finally allow the Great Lakes to present a unified front when competing against coastal regions for federal funding and resources. The final bill also increases the funding provided by the federal Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for our harbors and maritime infrastructure.
The final legislation is expected to be considered by the full House next week. The complete WRRDA conference committee report is available online here.