EDITORIAL: Corps of Engineers needs more money to dredge harbors
During Superior's entire history, maritime commerce has played a significant role in the economy -- a tradition that continues today. Simultaneously, the economic benefits have often been accompanied by challenges. Again, today is no different. T...
During Superior's entire history, maritime commerce has played a significant role in the economy -- a tradition that continues today.
Simultaneously, the economic benefits have often been accompanied by challenges. Again, today is no different. The current challenge was outlined this morning in a speech to the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force by Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. President and CEO Joseph A. Carrabba.
Lack of adequate dredging and low water levels, he told an audience in Washington, D.C., have substantially reduced the amount of Iron Range ore that can be hauled across the Great Lakes to steel mills, he said.
"On April 6, a 1,000-foot-long U.S.-flag vessel with a rated capacity of 71,120 tons departed Superior with less than 59,000 tons of Cliffs' pellets on board. "Nearly 17 percent of the vessel's carrying capacity, or 12,000 tons, was negated by the dredging crisis and low water levels," he said.
Carrabba added that another vessel recently departed Superior with its holds only 87 percent full, saying, "The 8,000 tons of Cliffs' pellets that had to be delivered on the next trip represents eight hours production at our largest Minnesota mine."
Dredging budgets, meanwhile, are underfunded, forcing several dredging projects to be canceled already this year.
Mother Nature plays a partial role, because lake levels are below historical measures, reducing draft levels. Still, there's a lack of commitment to fully fund needed American transportation system improvements.
The Bush administration and Congress have worked strongly to reduce taxes and provide refunds. Those efforts have come with a cost: reduced funding of necessary programs. That's easy to ignore when the impact occurs elsewhere, but eventually, it hits home.
All the tax cuts in the world will be meaningless without jobs -- and let's remember Cleveland-Cliffs is among the region's largest employers. And with major restructuring within the mining and steel industries, Cliffs is among the nation's most efficient operators.
"Yet all these advances and advantages are at risk because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers does not receive enough money to maintain the Great Lakes navigation system," Carrabba warned in his speech.
His concerns are valid. Hopefully, Washington takes notice.