U.S.-flag Great Lakes carriers are grateful for the increased water levels in the lakes, however it has not yet resulted in full loads of iron ore, coal, limestone, cement and other cargoes.
According to the Lake Carrier’s Association, vessels continue to routinely leave Great Lakes docks with less than full loads.
For example, the largest iron ore cargo moved by a U.S.-flag laker through the Soo Locks in June totaled 69,576 tons. The record iron ore cargo for the “Head-of-the-Lakes Trade” is 72,300 tons and was carried in 1997, a period of near record-high water levels, according to the trade group.
“The rise in water levels has allowed vessels to carry larger cargos than a year ago,” said James H.I. Weakley, president of Lake Carriers’ Association, in a statement. “However, water levels will begin their seasonal decline in the fall, so the fact even more carrying capacity will be unusable makes the recent passage of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act even more important to the Great Lakes Navigation System.”
WRRDA designates the Lakes as a system in terms of dredging and increases spending from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. The House on Wednesday added about $58 million to the Army Corps of Engineers’ budget. The agency is responsible for dredging the nation’s harbors and waterways.
Weakley warned “only increased funding will end the dredging crisis on the Great Lakes.“
The Corps estimates about 18 million cubic yards of sediment clog Great Lakes ports and waterways, and puts the cost of dredging that volume at more than $200 million. The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, the depository for a tax levied on cargo to pay for dredging, has a surplus of more than $8 billion.