Congressman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, yesterday announced $1.5 million in new funding to dredge the St. Joseph harbor.
The funding comes as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers releases its final allocation of funding for harbor operations and maintenance for the remainder of the current fiscal year.
St. Joseph harbor was previously not slated to receive funding under the U.S. President Obama’s FY 2014 budget and was not funded in the initial FY 2014 appropriation. Ensuring the St. Joseph harbor remains open and maintained has long been a top priority for Upton as the commercial harbor is essential to jobs and economic activity throughout Southwest Michigan and beyond.
“This funding comes as welcome news for the countless families and small businesses in our area whose livelihoods depend upon the harbor remaining open and operational,” said Upton. “It is so important for us to ensure that these vital arteries remain open to the commercial shipments and recreational traffic that help fuel the local economy. I applaud the Army Corps for long recognizing the significant role that our harbors play here in Southwest Michigan and in communities throughout the Great Lakes region.”
In January, Upton supported the bipartisan Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, which funded the entire federal government for the remainder of FY 2014 and provided the Army Corps with an additional $200 million for operations and maintenance programs. Upton was recently part of a bipartisan coalition of House Members calling on the federal government to allocate at least 15 percent of the additional funding – or $30 million – to maintain navigational locks, harbor channels and structures, and connecting navigational channels within the Great Lakes.
“As the Corps continues to contend with a tremendous backlog, it is all the more imperative for Congress to make sure harbor maintenance dollars are properly and fully used for their originally intended purpose,” said Upton.
Upton is also a strong supporter of the bipartisan Realize America’s Maritime Promise (RAMP) Act (H.R. 335), which would ensure that all federal revenues collected for harbor maintenance through the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) are fully used and not left unspent in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF). Revenue in the HMTF has increased over the past decade, with a current surplus of more than $7 billion. Because the HMTF is not a separate account within the federal budget, many of the HMT revenues paid by users have been left unspent as a budgetary gimmick to offset other federal spending.
“This is great news for the port of Saint Joseph,” said Pete Berghoff, owner of Dock 63. “Over the last four to five years, the port has struggled with draft issues primarily due to low water levels on the lake and significant shoaling due to severe weather typically in the fall and winter.
“The dredging will allow the port to return to a reasonable depth. This will allow the port to continue to operate serving the region with limestone, cement, and road salt. It will also allow the business within the port to move ahead with making significant capital investments in their facilities, equipment purchases, and most importantly adding jobs.”
Press Release, March 6, 2014