Great Lakes officials release plan to boost maritime trade


DETROIT (AP) — An organization representing states and Canadian provinces in the Great Lakes region released a $3.8 billion plan Wednesday designed to improve their shared maritime transportation system and make cargo shipping more competitive.

Aside from doubling maritime trade, the region’s first-ever waterborne transportation strategy is intended to support industry and reduce environmental damage, said Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan and Premier Kathleen Wynne of Ontario, who released it on behalf of the Conference of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers.

“The maritime system connects regional markets with one another, and with the world,” Snyder said. “By leveraging maritime transport on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, we can boost the region’s $5 trillion economy and create jobs throughout the region.”

A preliminary analysis suggests the plan would take about 10 years to carry out, the officials said.

Among the proposals:

—Building a second lock at Sault. Ste. Marie, Michigan, that can accommodate the largest freighters hauling iron ore, coal and other bulk raw materials.

—Clearing a backlog of dredging projects to make sure fully loaded vessels can get through shallow channels and harbors.

—Dredging the St. Marys River, the link between Lakes Huron and Superior, to its authorized depth of 27 feet.

—Developing a U.S.-Canadian treaty or other binding agreement for managing the regional maritime system and making regulations more consistent.

—Streamlining the process of clearing customs for cruise passengers and maritime cargo.

The governors and premiers put together the strategy in collaboration with representatives of government agencies, industry, environmental groups and others, officials said.

“These investments will make it easier, faster and cheaper to move iron ore and other goods from here to other U.S. and overseas markets,” said Gov. Mark Dayton of Minnesota.

The maritime sector pumps $30 billion annually into the U.S. and Canadian economies and accounts for more than 220,000 jobs, according to the conference, which represents the governors of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and the premiers of Ontario and Quebec.

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