Portman, Stabenow Introduce Great Lakes Navigation Act to Increase Resources for the Great Lakes Navigation System

September 22, 2020 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) Co-Chairs of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, introduced the Great Lakes Navigation Act, requiring the Great Lakes Navigation System to receive no less than 12 percent of total annual funding from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF). Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Gary Peters (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Todd Young (R-IN), Tina Smith (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) joined as original cosponsors.  

Similar language has been included in H.R. 7575, the Water Resources Development Act of 2020, which passed the House by voice vote on July 29. Senators Portman and Stabenow, along with several of their colleagues, have advocated for the Great Lakes Navigation Act to be included as part of a broader HMTF agreement or final water resources development legislation.  

“The Great Lakes are an invaluable resource to Ohio, critically important to both our environment and our economy,” said Senator Portman, co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force. “They provide an essential transportation network for the movement of many goods, from iron and steel products to agricultural commodities, for domestic and international consumption. It’s vital that the Great Lakes Navigation System receives adequate funding to maintain our harbors and ensure that our navigation system is properly dredged so that vessels can continue to travel safely throughout the Great Lakes.”  

“Maintaining our harbors, ports, and waterways is critically important to Michigan’s economy and supports thousands of jobs,” said Senator Stabenow. “While our ultimate goal must be to ensure that every dollar in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund is used to support our federal harbors and waterways, this is an important step that will help address a backlog of more than $500 million in dredging and maintenance needs for our aging maritime infrastructure. This is especially important as high water levels have impacted Great Lakes communities across Michigan. This bill will also provide the necessary funding to secure the long-term viability of the Soo Locks.”

NOTE: Today, the Great Lakes Navigation System is required to receive at least 10 percent of priority funding, which is only the funding amount above fiscal year (FY) 2012 levels, of total annual HMTF funding. However, the Great Lakes Navigation System has consistently received more than 10 percent of the total pot of annual HMTF funding, reaching 12.4 percent in FY 2019. By ensuring that the Great Lakes Navigation System will receive at least 12 percent of total annual HMTF funding moving forward, the Great Lakes Navigation Act will provide certainty that the necessary resources will be provided to maintain safe navigation throughout the Great Lakes. Increasing the HMTF money to the Great Lakes will also help address more than $500M in dredging and maintenance backlogs.

This follows upon Senators Portman and Stabenow’s work on language they negotiated as part of the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA), which was included in the Frank Lobiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act that was signed into law in 2018 to protect against the spread of invasive species and pollution and provide regulatory certainty for the shipping industry.

Senator Portman received the Legislator of the Year Award from the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force in 2019.