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Posted: May 19, 2014

Congressman Huizenga named 2014 Great Lakes Legislator of the Year

Congressman Bill Huizenga (R-MI) May 7 received the 2014 Great Lakes Legislator of the Year Award from the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, the largest labor/management coalition representing workers and industries dependent on shipping on America's Fourth Sea Coast.

"Congressman Huizenga has shown incredible resolve in addressing the dredging crisis on the Great Lakes," said James Weakley, president of GLMTF. "His laser-like focus on the issue is one of the big reasons the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) passed by the House in 2013 contains provisions key to ending the dredging crisis. The bill not only calls for more funding for dredging, but designates the Great Lakes a system in terms of dredging, and that in itself should put the Lakes on an even footing with other waterways."

Rep. Huizenga's efforts to end the dredging crisis also have statewide benefits.

"Michigan is the state most impacted by the dredging crisis," said John Baker, 1st vice president of the GLMTF. "Michigan boasts more deep-draft ports than the other seven Great Lakes states combined. The largest limestone quarries in the Great Lakes basin and cement plants in Alpena and Charlevoix are dependent on efficient shipping on the Lakes, but the dredging crisis has dramatically reduced the amount of cargo that can be loaded each trip."

Rep. Huizenga's strong support for adequate U.S. Coast Guard icebreaking resources on the Lakes has taken on a special significance this year.

"The winter of 2013/2014 was the harshest since 1993/1994," said Thomas Curelli, 2nd vice president of the GLMTF. "The ice was so thick the Coast Guard had to lead convoys to get the ships across Lake Superior and Marquette wasn't able to load its first cargo until April 14, weeks later than normal. We are indeed fortunate the U.S. Coast Guard now has nine icebreakers stationed on the Great Lakes, otherwise vital cargos would have been delayed to the point that more employers might have had to curtail production."

The U.S.-Canada trade on the Great Lakes is an important segment of the industry and Rep. Huizenga is chairman of the U.S.-Canada Interparlimentary Group.

"It is important that the Lakes have a voice in this forum," said Donald Cree, 3rd vice president of the GLMTF and Great Lakes special assistant to the national president of American Maritime Officers. "The more we work together on issues affecting the cross-Lakes trade, such as adequate icebreaking resources on both sides of the border and ballast water regulations, the more our nations benefit."