WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith joined Co-Chairs of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to introduce the Great Lakes Navigation Act which will require the Great Lakes Navigation System to receive no less than 12 percent of total annual funding from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF).
“The Great Lakes are a national treasure and vital to the economy and environment in Minnesota and our entire country,” Klobuchar said. “Ensuring that the Great Lakes Navigation System receives its fair share from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund will help improve the safety of navigation through the Great Lakes and provide economic support throughout the region.”
"Maintaining the Great Lakes Navigation System should be a top priority because shipping from Duluth, Two Harbors and Silver Bay is critical to supporting Minnesota’s economy and thousands of jobs, particularly in taconite mining and agriculture” said Smith. “This funding will address a backlog of dredging and maintenance needs to help ensure vessels can safely travel throughout the waterways.”
In addition to Klobuchar, Smith, Portman, and Stabenow, Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL, Gary Peters (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Todd Young (R-IN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) joined as original cosponsors.
As one of the Vice Chairs on the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, Senator Klobuchar has consistently advocated for robust funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). Klobuchar has consistently supported GLRI appropriations and has sent letters in opposition to budget cuts in the program. She also is an original cosponsor of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act to reauthorize the program and ramp up its authorized funding level from $300 million per year to $475 million.
Senator Smith has long fought to protect Minnesota’s environment, and works with her colleagues on the bipartisan Senate Great Lakes Task Force to improve the environmental and economic health of the Great Lakes. Sen. Smith helped introduce the bipartisan Great Lakes Restoration Act of 2019 and has repeatedly pushed back against proposed cuts to the restoration budget.
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.
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.