On Wednesday, Congressman Bill Huizenga, Co-Chair of the U.S. House Great Lakes Task Force, testified before the House Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee on the importance of properly using funds collected in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and water infrastructure across the Great Lakes. Congressman Huizenga discussed the strong bipartisan effort he has led to hold Washington accountable and make the federal government live up to its promise of dredging harbors across the Great Lakes. Huizenga also warned of the negative economic consequences including fewer jobs and fewer American products being exported should the federal government fail to live up to its obligation.
Harbors and navigation channels are a vital part of our nation’s transportation infrastructure and a reduction in their capacity can have significant impacts on local communities. The inefficiencies resulting from poorly maintained harbors drive up the cost of U.S. exports and imports, which threatens U.S. economic growth. We can’t sell more Made-in-America products if they can’t leave our harbors. While many transportation infrastructure programs are struggling to identify beneficiary-paid revenue streams to meet their needs, maritime commerce has been paying enough to meet the operations and maintenance needs of all federally-authorized harbors for decades.
During my first year in Congress, our ports and navigation channels were maintained with just 47% of the revenue collected into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. Having a 74% target for fiscal year 2018 shows just how far we have come. This funding is especially vital for the 140 federally maintained commercial and recreational ports and harbors in the Great Lakes - many of which are facing a crisis. However, 92 of these harbors have not been federally maintained in many years because of a lack of funding. At the same time, the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund has a balance of nearly $10 billion.
Instead of increasing the balance of the Trust Fund or spending the money elsewhere, I urge you to dedicate harbor maintenance tax revenue for its intended purpose. Enough Harbor Maintenance Tax revenue is collected each year to meet the nation’s annual authorized harbor maintenance needs for harbors of all sizes in all regions of our country - from the Pacific Northwest to the Gulf Coast and from the Port of Long Beach to Muskegon, Michigan in my district.
Recently, I had the opportunity to welcome Michigan WWII Veterans to the memorial built in their honor. It was incredible to hear the stories of these brave men who fought to preserve freedom. Thank you for your service and thank you to the volunteers who made the veterans' trip such a positive and moving experience.
This afternoon, I welcomed nearly 40 people from around the world as they became American citizens at the Loutit District Library in Grand Haven. Congratulations to each and every one of you on making this life changing decision!