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Great trouble on the Great Lakes

Updated: Jul 10, 2020

D&A Senior Vice President Don Riley

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates that inadequate harbor maintenance, including lack of adequate dredging, increased the cost of traded products by $7 billion in 2010.  This is a particular problem for the Great Lakes Region because, in addition to being the world’s single largest source of fresh water, it generates nearly 30% of our nation’s GDP and hosts about 60% of all U.S. manufacturing.

As John Schwartz at The New York Times reports this morning:

“Drought and other factors have created historically low water marks for the Great Lakes, putting the $34 billion Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway shipping industry in peril, a situation that could send ominous ripples throughout the economy.”

The article describes the difficulties involved with processing cargo traffic at today’s comparatively low water levels.  This situation presents multiple challenges for the federal government in general and particularly the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as Schwartz indicates by citing Dawson Senior Vice President Don Riley:

“Don T. Riley, a former official with the Army Corps of Engineers who works with a Washington lobbying and consulting firm, Dawson & Associates, acknowledged that the extra money could seem absurd. ‘You’ve got this major surplus — that just sounds so dumb not to spend at least what you take in because that’s what you’re paying for,’ he said. But the corps spends only what Congress appropriates, he said, and tapping the fund is not necessarily easy: even if money has been collected, ordering it to be spent increases the appropriation for the corps, and that can be politically troublesome in times of budget cutting.”

We’ve discussed infrastructure investment previously, particularly ASCE’s insights. Schwartz is on target that this is a major economic issue for the country, particularly as both economic growth and trade with Canada appear to be accelerating.

Hon. Robert K. Dawson

President & Founder

Mr. Dawson formerly served as the U.S. Army’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Civil Works and as an Associate Director at the Office of Management & Budget.


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