Updated: 05/22/2014 11:15 PM
Created: 05/22/2014 10:43 PM WDIO.com
At least 10 percent of all federal funding for harbor improvement projects will go to the Great Lakes region under newly approved congressional legislation.
The requirement is part of the $12.3 billion Water Resources Reform and Development Act, which the Senate approved Thursday.
The House earlier this week passed the bill, which now heads to President Barack Obama for signature.
Besides guaranteeing the Great Lakes a share of future harbor spending, the bill designates the lakes as a single navigational system for funding purposes. Supporters say that means smaller ports will have a better chance of getting money for maintenance work.
The bill also calls for more spending on harbor dredging. According to Sen. Amy Klobuchar's office, the backlog of sediment due to insufficient dredging on the Great Lakes is more than 18 million cubic yards and is estimated to cost $200 million.
She told the Senate floor Thursday that backlog has hurt the whole country's economy.
"When ships on the Great Lakes have to light-load, which means they're about 10 percent less cargo then they should have, they have to reduce their cargo because channels are not deep enough," Klobuchar (D-Minn.) explained. "Our whole economy suffers, not just the shippers, not just the people that are producing the goods."
The measure also gives the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers greater authority to deal with invasive species such as Asian carp.
(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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.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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