Updated: 05/21/2014 11:01 PM
Created: 05/21/2014 10:50 PM WDIO.com
The House has passed a $12 billion-plus infrastructure bill authorizing 34 water projects across the country, including in the Duluth-Superior Port.
The bill passed on a 412-4 vote Tuesday after months of negotiations between key House members and senators in both parties. The Senate could vote on it before the end of the week. That would send it to President Barack Obama for his signature.
Sponsors, including Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said the measure will make Northland businesses more competitive in moving their products to market faster. Part of the bill calls for more dredging money for Lake Superior, allowing cargo ships to carry heavier loads.
"Duluth is the largest freshwater port in the world," Franken said Wednesday. "This is incredibly important to the whole state of Minnesota, to our economy, and of course to northeastern Minnesota. This is going to be very good for our mining industry, and for our [agriculture] exporters and for other people that ship in and out of the harbor."
A portion of the bill, championed by Minnesota lawmakers, ensures that 100 percent of all harbor maintenance fees - a tax paid by the shipping industry to use the port - go towards maintaining the harbor. That money had been diverted to other projects for several years.
The projects also include flood diversion projects in North Dakota, Minnesota and California; dredging and widening an 80-mile waterway in Texas and Louisiana that serves the oil industry and deepening the growing Port of Savanah.
The legislation also puts an end to some $18 billion in dormant water projects authorized before 2007.
(Copyright 2014 WDIO-TV, LLC . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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