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The Great Lakes Authority chipping away at the rust

Photo: Port of Cleveland View of Great Lakes at port of Cleveland
A new Great Lakes Authority has been welcomed as a boost to ports and infrastructure in the region.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) for Fiscal Year 2023, a $1.7trn piece of legislation now signed into law by President Biden, totaled 4,100+ pages.  Somewhere near the middle- on page 1.921 to be precise, was wording that will have an important and positive impact on the ports in the US Great Lakes- located in eight states stretching from Wisconsin (to the west) up to New York. The wording in the bill creates the "Great Lakes Authority", which is described as a new regional economic development commission.

In a statement released following the CAA’s enactment, the American Great Lakes Port Association (AGLPA) said: “The Great Lakes Authority (GLA) promises to become an important new source of economic development and transportation infrastructure funding that will benefit ports, communities and workers in our region.”  

AGLPA explains further that: “The GLA may make grants to state and local governments, tribes and public and non-profit organizations for projects that enhance: transportation infrastructure, telecommunications infrastructure, job and employment training, business development, basic healthcare, resource conservation, tourism, recreation, renewable and alternative energy.”

The new GLA is authorised to receive up to $33m per year from the Federal government, similar to the mechanism for other “regional commissions”, which provided the template for the new body, but this does not happen automatically, but Congress must make an annual appropriation.

In 2023, this will likely be $33m. Representative Marcy Kaptur, Democrat from Ohio, who earlier in 2022, had introduced a bill in the House of Representatives with the idea for the GLA, said: “The Great Lakes Authority represents a new vision for how to harness existing assets and focus attention and resources to the corner of our nation that makes, builds, and grows America,”

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The Great Lakes region overlaps with “The Rust Belt”- where previously industrial areas have seen decades of declines. Another Representative supporting the GLA, Debbie Dingell, Democrat from Michigan whose district includes industrial hubs near Detroit, said: “…for decades, communities like the ones I represent have borne the brunt of job loss and economic downturn as the result of disastrous trade policies, underinvestment, and deindustrialisation. The Great Lakes Authority will help reverse these losses and create a strategic partnership to strengthen the Great Lakes economy, as well as the nation, by boosting investments in long-term economic development projects across the manufacturing, defense, infrastructure, and clean energy sectors.”

The Great Lakes received additional good news just prior to year-end 2022. In the now signed Water Resources Development Act 2022, an annual bill, the ongoing upgrade of the Soo Locks received a continuing authorisation amounting to $3.2bn. The project, which began in 2020, saw a huge increase in projected costs, initially thought to be under $1bn.

There was additional good news; another end 2022 bill, the National Defense Authorization Act,  included an authorization of $350m for a new ice-breaker to be operated by the US Coast Guard on the Lakes. An organisation of owners and other stakeholders, the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, said: “This is a big win for the 4th Sea Coast."

TAGS: Americas