[UPDATED] House passes important Great Lakes legislation


[UPDATED October 24, 2013] Last night, the House of Representatives approved the Water Resources Reform and Development Act by a vote of 417-3. Both of Monroe County's Representatives, Democrat Louise Slaughter and Republican Chris Collins, gave 'yes' votes.

Original story: The House of Representatives could soon vote on legislation that would make it easier for federal ports on the Great Lakes to get funding for dredging and other maintenance.

Last night, the House Rules Committee advanced the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 (H.R. 3080). That means the bill, which has bipartisan backing, can be brought to to the House floor for a vote. And the vote could happen as early as today.

The legislation contains a provision, sought by Representative Louise Slaughter and other Great Lakes representatives, that would designate the Great Lakes as a single, unified navigational system. The change would be a technical one, but it would provide an important benefit.

Right now, each federal Great Lakes port, including the Port of Rochester and the port in Irondequoit, receives individual consideration for government funding. That system, in short, pits  the Great Lakes ports against each other, says a press release that Slaughter's office sent out in June. Treating them as a single, connected system will put the ports in a better position to compete for funding, say supporters of the legislation.

The Port of Rochester imports approximately $10 million worth of products each year and is particularly important to the Essroc cement company. This summer, Essroc's cargo ship docked in the Port of Rochester for the first time in two-and-a-half years. Previously, Essroc had been unable to use the port because of sediment build-up. A 2012-2013 dredging project was initiated by the company, which also paid for most of the work.

The Senate has already passed its version of the House bill, the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 (S. 601). If the House bill passes, the two pieces of legislation will go to conference.