The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is pushing for Congressional action to reauthorize a measure that supports Michigan’s ports and waterways, which provide more than 6,000 jobs and contributes nearly $660 million to the state’s economy.
The chamber argues that without proper investment and backing of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act and Michigan’s marine transportation system, these numbers are at risk.
Janet Kavinoky, the Chamber’s executive director of Transportation and Infrastructure, says the reauthorization of the bill would kick-start strategic investment in ports and waterways in Michigan and across the country, increase American competitiveness and, in the process, create jobs.
“With smart investment, we can begin to address problems caused by congestion and delays, handle increasing cargo loads efficiently and safely, and power the nation’s economic growth,” says Kavinoky. “A failure to invest in our nation’s waterways will drive up transportation costs and increase prices for businesses and consumers.”
The bill also sets hard deadlines on the time and cost of studies; deauthorizes $12 billion of inactive projects that were authorized prior to 2007; authorizes investments in America’s ports and other measures.
Through the measure, Congress authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out its mission to develop, maintain, and support the nation’s port and waterways infrastructure needs, and support effective and targeted flood protection and environmental restoration needs. At current funding levels, the corps estimates that it will take 77 years to complete the 22 major construction and rehabilitation projects throughout the United States.
According to Waterways Work for Michigan, the state’s waterway’s system transports $36 billion worth of manufactured goods, $6.5 billion worth of non-metallic minerals, and $5.3 billion worth of basic chemicals. Those backing the measure say that, without proper investment, fewer jobs will be created or sustained, and millions of dollars will be lost.
The House of Representatives Committee on Rules will meet Wednesday to review the measure, says Drew Preston, spokesman for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. So far, feedback for the bill has been positive, he says.
“The drafters on both sides — Senate and House —did a very good job of reaching across the aisle, making this issue what it always historically has been: a bipartisan issue,” Preston says. “I think that’s well reflected in its being passed unanimously under the Senate (Environment and Public Works Committee) and the House (Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure).”