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Better dredging needed on lake

Tom Jackson • Dec 12, 2013 at 8:00 AM

“I could use a good photo,” Kaptur said Tuesday. “I could take it to the floor”

The CSL Niagara ran aground on Nov. 17 and had to be helped away by tugboats.

Kaptur and other lawmakers from the area are hoping Great Lakes dredging will get more attention soon.

Kaptur signed a letter from Great Lakes lawmakers asking a conference committee writing the final version of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act to include a provision giving direction to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The language tells the agency to treat the lakes as one system, rather than a collection of ports.

The committee agreed to the request, a key goal of the Lake Carriers Association, a rade group representing the Great Lakes shipping industry. The association is located in Rocky River, in Kaptur’s district.

The Army Corps treats the Mississippi River as a system, and Great Lakes backers hope designating the Great Lakes as a system, too, will send more money to maintain Great Lakes shipping.

“They spend the least amount of money in our part of the country,” said Kaptur, who said she had just met with the Army Corps’ associate director to discuss dredging.

Dredging in Sandusky’s harbor is about 800,000 cubic yards behind what it should be, according to figures supplied by the Lake Carriers Association.

Glen Nekvasil, vice president of the Lake Carriers Association, said he doesn’t know the particulars of the Niagara incident, but said, “There’s no denying there’s a dredging crisis on the Great Lakes”

Lack of dredging means shipping channels and harbors are too shallow, and that means cargo ships on Lake Erie and other lakes aren’t carrying all of the cargo they could, Nekvasil said.

Ships lose 50 to 270 tons of cargo for each inch of draft they give up, he said.

“We are vastly underutilizing the capacity of the system” he said.

Dredging the Great Lakes properly would mean that ships could carry more cargo without having to add crew or burn more fuel, he said.

The big cargo ships on the Great Lakes get about 600 miles per gallon, so shipping goods on water is cheaper and better for the environment than any other kind of transportation, he said.

He said the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund takes in $1.6 billion a year from taxes on cargo but spends only about half that.

“It’s kind of like pulling up on a toll booth and paying your toll and being told the speed limit is no longer 60, it’s 30” he said.

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