In partnership with AGLPA and the Lake Carriers Association, the Conference of Great Lakes Governors and Premiers sponsored a lobbying day at the U.S. Capitol on October 17th to push for efficient funding of the new Soo Lock project. Vanta Coda, CEO of Ports of Indiana, represented Great Lakes ports at the event. The Congressional briefing was complimented by specific meetings with House and Senate Appropriations Committee staff and Corps of Engineers headquarters staff.
State and industry representatives explained that to keep the project on schedule, Congress will need to provide $123.8 million in the FY2020 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill. The Corps had included $75.3 million in its proposed FY20 budget. That amount has already been approved at the committee level in both the House and Senate.
So where does the rest of the money come from? As has been the case in previous years, both the House and Senate have approved a “bucket” of additional construction funds to be assigned to individual projects at a later date. The House approved $300 million of additional construction funds. The Senate approved $387 million. It is our hope that $48.5 million of those funds can be directed to the Soo Lock project and bridge the gap in needed funding.
The fate of Soo Lock funding and other Corps of Engineers navigation priorities will be determined in coming weeks as Congress struggles to complete work on its FY20 appropriations bills. None of the 12 annual funding bills have yet to be enacted into law. The federal fiscal year began October 1st. Congress has enacted a stop-gap funding measure to keep agencies funded through November 21st with the hopes of completing work by then.
MINNESOTA STATE CAPITOL DAY
The Great Lakes Seaway Partnership sponsored its fifth “state capitol day” event on October 22nd in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Partnership is a joint public affairs initiative of AGLPA, the Lake Carriers Association, Fednav, and the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. The Minnesota State Capitol Day featured meetings with state legislators, state agency executives and Governor Tim Walz. Participants included Deb DeLuca, Executive Director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority; Mark Barker, President of Interlake Steamship Co.; Paul Gourdeau, Senior Vice President of Fednav Ltd.; Craig Middlebrook, Deputy Administrator of the SLSDC; and Steve Fisher, Executive Director of AGLPA. Additional representatives from Minnesota mining companies joined the group.
Industry representatives highlighted the importance of Great Lakes Seaway shipping to the state’s economy, the environmental benefits of shipping, and new investments being made in the navigation system by both the public and private sectors. Previous state capitol day events have been held in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin.