Senate approves bills to support Michigan port infrastructure improvements

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Wednesday finalized a bipartisan legislative package designed to support improvements of Michigan’s ports and help them compete with ports in other Great Lakes states.

Two of the plan’s three bills — Sen. Dale Zorn’s bill and a House bill — were approved by the Senate at the end of May.

“Our ports are critical to our state’s economy and allowing them to service more ships would help reduce costs for Michigan businesses and consumers and provide more high-wage jobs for Michigan workers,” said Zorn. R-Onsted. “My bill allows our ports to use revenue bonds for projects that would enable them to handle more cargo, such as shipping containers. It is about standing up for Michigan jobs and making sure our ports, like the port of Monroe, have the ability to compete with other U.S. ports for cargo.”

In 2017, a report from Martin Associates in Pennsylvania found that 59.2 million tons of goods were moved through Michigan’s waterways, valued at $3.23 billion. The economic activity generated by commercial ports was $4.16 million, supporting 25,910 jobs and raising $763 million in federal, state, and local tax revenue.

Senate Bill 744, sponsored by Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, and approved by the Senate Wednesday, would create the Maritime and Port Facility Assistance grant program for port infrastructure projects. A grant awarded under the program may be used for public purposes, including direct port facility activity; overall maritime-related economic development or transportation opportunities in the port facility’s region; achieving or improving green marine certification; matching federal funding options; dredging waterways and harbors; repairing seawalls; transitioning to cleaner technology; or other projects related to port facilities as determined by the program office.

Zorn’s bill, SB 745, would allow port authorities to use revenue bonds for transportation-related improvements and further harness the efficiency of vessels on our Great Lakes.

House Bill 5291, sponsored by Rep. Jack O’Malley, R-Lake Ann, would create the Maritime and Port Facility Assistance Office to provide technical assistance, develop a statewide strategic maritime plan and administer the state-level port grant assistance program created in SB 744.

SB 744 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration with the other two bills.

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Sen. Dale Zorn