WBEZ | ports http://www.wbez.org/tags/ports Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Dredging: Shipping industry declares state of emergency http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-04/dredging-shipping-industry-declares-state-emergency-88579 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/frontandcenter/photo/2011-06-30/88579/Coal-Fired Power Plant, Grand Haven.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The Great Lakes form a sprawling ecosystem of nature and industry.&nbsp; In a strong economy, ships can transport up to 200 million tons of cargo across these waters each year.&nbsp; But now the shipping industry has declared a state of emergency.&nbsp; The cause is a region-wide dredging backlog.&nbsp; Shippers worry that sediment buildup threatens to choke some navigation channels.</p><p>But before we begin this tale of sediment buildup and dredging and the government raiding crucial funds…let’s talk about…well…me.&nbsp;</p><p>I’m between four and six feet tall.&nbsp; Five foot four, to be exact.&nbsp;</p><p>In one year, that’s how much sediment can build up in the mouths of harbors around the Great Lakes.&nbsp; That’s when you call for a dredge.</p><p> <style type="text/css"> div .inline { width: 290px; float: left; margin-right: 19px; margin-left: 3px; clear: left; } div .inlineContent { border-top: 1px dotted #aa211d; border-top-width: 1px; border-top-style: dotted; border-top-color: #aa211d; margin-bottom: 5px; margin-top: 2px; } ul { margin-left: 15px; } li { font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 1em; background-repeat: no-repeat; background-repeat-x: no-repeat; background-repeat-y: no-repeat; background-position: 0 5px; background-position-x: 0px; background-position-y: 5px; padding-left: 3px; margin-bottom: 0.5em; }</style> </p><div class="inline"><div class="inlineContent"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/story/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-28/FNC-inset-promo.jpg" style="width: 280px; height: 50px;" title=""></a><ul><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/about-front-and-center-%E2%80%93-depth-reporting-great-lakes-87655">About Front and Center</a></strong></li><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-05/when-inch-means-ton-or-267-tons-be-precise-88748">When an Inch Means a Ton. Or 267 Tons, To Be Precise</a></strong></li><li><a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-06-24/front-and-center-cant-we-all-just-get-along-disagreements-st-lawrence-88"><strong>Can't we all just get along? </strong></a></li></ul></div></div><p>“Basically it’s a vacuum that chews up the bottom of the sand,” said engineer Tom O’Bryan.&nbsp; “Sucks up the sand with water.&nbsp; And then we pipe that material 5,000 feet down the shoreline.”O’Bryan is with the Army Corps of Engineers in Grand Haven, Michigan.&nbsp; On one side of this dredge lies Lake Michigan.&nbsp; On the other, the inner harbor and one of its shipping targets: the city’s coal-fired power plant.&nbsp; The deeper this passage, the more coal each ship can carry without getting stuck.&nbsp; O’Bryan feels that efficiency helps consumers like him.</p><p>“If I can get coal to that plant cheaper, then I’m going to get cheaper electricity to my house and therefore my bill’s gonna be less,” he said.</p><p>But because of the dredging backlog, between 15 and 18 million cubic yards of excess sediment have built up in Great Lakes channels, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.&nbsp; That’s like pouring in a bag of mulch … 200 million times.&nbsp; Add in low water levels and many ships have to light load, meaning carry less.&nbsp; So costs go up.&nbsp;</p><p>At the port in Marblehead, Ohio, a long conveyer belt rumbled steadily, carrying limestone from a quarry to one of Mark Barker’s ships below.&nbsp; Barker is president of The Interlake Steamship Company.&nbsp;</p><p>He’s also a man who measures revenue with a ruler.&nbsp; For every inch of draft – that’s how deep a boat sits in the water –this 700 foot ship holds 110 tons of cargo.</p><p>“Our thousand-foot vessel, the largest vessel on the lakes, can lose over 250 tons per inch,” he said.&nbsp;</p><p>Barker said “lose” because he’s loading between six and ten inches less than he did last year.&nbsp; He said that could subtract millions of dollars from his bottom line.&nbsp;</p><p>Glen Nekvasil is vice president of a trade group called the Lake Carriers’ Association.&nbsp; He said early in the season, before a lot of snow melt, some ships left behind as much as 12,000 tons of iron ore or coal.</p><p>“That much iron ore will make the steel that’s used in 10,000 automobiles,” he said, “And that much coal will keep a couple big power plants going for thirteen hours.&nbsp; So that’s the impact of light loading.”&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>But light loading on the Great Lakes is already common.&nbsp; Nekvasil said the outlook for next year makes it worse.&nbsp;</p><p>Under President Obama’s budget proposal, only 11 of the 60 federal commercial harbors on the Great Lakes would get dredged next year.&nbsp; That’s because of a proposed 30 percent funding reduction for the region.&nbsp; Officials with the Army Corps of Engineers say if that stands, some commercial harbors could essentially close to big ships.&nbsp; In other words, channels might silt in too much to remain economical.</p><p>Under the current proposal, no port that sees less than a million tons of cargo transport would get dredged next year.&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-30/Cargo%20Load%2C%20Marblehead.JPG" style="width: 400px; height: 266px; float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="">All this is happening despite the fact that billions of dollars have been collected over the years precisely for harbor maintenance and dredging.&nbsp; Commercial shippers pay taxes on their cargo and that money goes into something called the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.&nbsp; But that fund has been plundered by pirates … or in this case, the federal government.&nbsp; Just ask Candice Miller.</p><p>“They are raiding this fund,” she said.&nbsp; “They’re raiding it for other kinds of things.”</p><p>Miller is a Republican congresswoman from a Michigan district on Lake Huron.&nbsp; She’s also co-sponsor of a bill that would require every penny of the fund be spent on harbor maintenance, instead of being used to reduce the federal deficit.</p><p>“Think about your gasoline tax, those taxes go into the Highway Trust Fund,” Miller said.&nbsp; “And that money can’t be siphoned off for anything other than highway projects.&nbsp; We pay the tax, it fixes your roads.”</p><p>The idea of putting a firewall around the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund has bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress.&nbsp; As for shippers, they say remember the many thousands of jobs they support – in mining, in steel mills, in manufacturing, in construction.&nbsp; They say those jobs demand that Great Lakes shipping remains efficient.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-30/FY%20%2712%20Dredging%20Map.PNG" style="width: 600px; height: 417px;" title="Courtesy of Army Corps of Engineers "></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 04 Jul 2011 13:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-04/dredging-shipping-industry-declares-state-emergency-88579