Senators Announce Port Infrastructure Improvement Legislation to Support Maritime Industry

LANSING, Mich. — Sens. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City), and Dale Zorn (R-Ida) today announced a bill package that would boost Michigan’s maritime industry and ensure it remains competitive with other Great Lakes states.

The bills are a result of months of work with stakeholders in the maritime industry, as well as environmental and community groups, to provide critical support and guidance for Michigan’s ports. Sen. Chang’s bills, Senate Bills 744 and 746, respectively, would create a grant assistance program for port infrastructure projects, and require each port to develop a five-year environmental impact transparency plan to mitigate adverse impacts and protect Michigan’s natural resources.

“I serve much of the Detroit Riverfront and know that Michigan’s location near the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence Seaway System is a competitive advantage in the manufacturing and agricultural industries. We can better utilize this strength to boost our local economies while simultaneously protecting our waterways and the neighborhoods closest to our ports,” Sen. Chang said. “We can create jobs and economic opportunity through a strengthened maritime industry while also protecting this precious resource our residents enjoy for recreation and living.”

In 2017, a report from Martin Associates in Pennsylvania found that 59.2 million tons of goods were moved through Michigan’s waterways, valued at $3.23 billion. The economic activity generated by commercial ports was $4.16 million, supporting 25,910 jobs and raising $763 million in federal, state, and local tax revenue. To provide more support to this thriving industry, Sen. Schmidt introduced Senate Bill 743, which creates a great lakes maritime office within the Michigan Department of Transportation.

“Michigan ports are essential to our state’s economy and this package of bills underlines their importance,” said Sen. Schmidt, chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation. “My bill would create a Great Lakes maritime office within the Michigan Department of Transportation. Doing so would show that we understand and value the contribution that ports and the maritime industry provide to our economy.”

Vessels on the Great Lakes are fuel and cargo efficient, so encouraging a thriving port industry will not only benefit our economy but also could have some regional environmental benefits, according to an environmental and social impact study by the Canadian Research and Traffic Group. By increasing port capacity and improving infrastructure, Michigan can further protect its precious natural resources and create more jobs in our communities. At the same time, Senator Chang recognizes that while regional improvements to the environment could be the result of increased maritime activity, there are potential localized impacts on neighborhoods located in close proximity to ports, so environmental impact transparency plans are a crucial component of the bill package.

Sen. Zorn’s bill, Senate Bill 745, would allow port authorities to use revenue bonds for transportation related improvements and further harness the efficiency of vessels in our Great Lakes.

“This legislation is about standing up for Michigan jobs and making sure our ports, like the port of Monroe, have the ability to compete with other U.S. ports for cargo,” Sen. Zorn said. “My bill would enable our ports to use revenue bonds to fund transportation-related projects which would allow ports to handle more cargo, such as shipping containers. Allowing more ships to use our ports would help reduce costs for Michigan businesses and consumers and provide more high-wage jobs for Michigan workers.”

“At a time when our nation is faced with unprecedented transportation challenges, Senators Chang, Schmidt, and Zorn have taken the lead to bolster the marine transportation system that has been the foundation of Michigan’s economy for over a century,” said Port of Monroe Director Paul C. LaMarre III. “This legislation will strengthen Michigan ports, sustain our supply chain, and ensure that our identity as the ‘Great Lakes State’ is as strong as the infrastructure that supports it.”