Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar (D) has been named 2013 Great Lakes Legislator of the Year by the largest labor/management coalition representing workers and industries dependent on shipping on America’s Fourth Sea Coast.
The award is presented annually by the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force to a legislator who has helped advance shipping on the nation’s Fourth Sea Coast.
“Senator Klobuchar has been focused on Great Lakes issues since her first day in the Senate,” said Don Cree, President of Great Lakes Maritime Task Force. “These have been critical times for the Great Lakes Navigation System (“GLNS”). The dredging crisis has severely impacted waterborne commerce, but thanks to her support for legislation that would require the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (”HMTF”) to spend more of the tax dollars it collects for dredging on dredging, we are a giant step to closer to ships once again carrying full loads.”
Cree, who is also Great Lakes Special Assistant to the National President for American Maritime Officers, noted Klobuchar’s commitment to Great Lakes shipping springs from her background. “Her grandfather was a miner on Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range, and it was Great Lakes freighters that moved that iron ore to the nation’s blast furnaces. These two great industries could never have thrived without each other and their futures are inextricably linked.”
Minnesota has a tremendous stake in ending the dredging crisis. When water levels were high in 1997, some U.S.-flag lakers were able to carry more than 72,000 tons of Minnesota taconite pellets in a single trip, but in recent years loads have often been around 65,000 tons. The tons left behind each trip represent roughly a day’s production at a large mine on the iron range.
The Senate and House will soon conference on their respective bills and both contain provisions that will lead to more dredging on the Great Lakes. The Senate’s Water Resources Development Act calls for increased spending from the HMTF, including for the GLNS. The House’s Water Resources Reform and Development Act likewise calls for increasing expenditures from the HMTF, and also requires the Corps of Engineers to treat the Lakes as a system when it comes to dredging appropriations.
“We are at a critical juncture,” said James H.I. Weakley, 1st Vice President of GLMTF and President of Lake Carriers’ Association. “We know Senator Klobuchar will do everything she can to ensure the Lakes fare well in the final bill. The cargos that move on the Great Lakes support 6,300 jobs in Minnesota, and another 122,000 in the other seven Great Lakes states.”
While the dredging crisis has dominated legislators’ attention to the Great Lakes for the past several years, there are other issues and on these Sen. Klobuchar has likewise been a leader. “Senator Klobuchar understands we desperately need a second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan,” said John D. Baker, 2nd Vice President of GLMTF and President Emeritus of the ILA’s Great Lakes District Council. “Twinning the Poe Lock will not only ensure that America’s steel mills have reliable access to Minnesota and Michigan iron ore, but that Midwest farmers can ship their grain to overseas markets.”
Sen. Klobuchar has also been fully supportive of efforts to maintain the U.S. Coast Guard’s icebreaking fleet on the Lakes. A service life extension program for the oldest icebreakers will begin next year.
“What impresses us most about Senator Klobuchar is her dedication to the Great Lakes basin, not just her fellow Minnesotans,” said Tom Curelli, 3rd Vice President of GLMTF and Director of Operations for Fraser Shipyards, Inc. “She wants a strong Great Lakes shipping industry to not only support iron miners in Minnesota, but steelworkers in Indiana and Pennsylvania, longshoremen in Ohio and Illinois, limestone quarriers in Michigan, shipyards workers in Wisconsin, and grain handlers in New York, and never loses sight of that goal.”
With her selection as Great Lakes Legislator of the Year, Senator Klobuchar becomes the second Minnesota legislator to receive the award. The first was Congressman James L. Oberstar (D) in 1999.
Press Release, November 22, 2013