Veto override preserves U.P. water projects
By Eric Hjerstedt Sharp
Ironwood Daily Globe
Published November 12, 2007
Upper Peninsula water projects were spared -- along with a comprehensive list of national projects -- after the U.S. Senate voted to override President Bush's veto of the Water Resources Development Act last week.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted to override the veto prior to the Senate's action.
U.S. Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Menominee) hailed the vote, saying it was time to put northern Michigan projects first.
"The projects contained in WRDA are vital for maintaining commerce throughout our Great Lakes," Stupak said. "I am pleased my colleagues voted to override the president's veto and invest in our Great Lakes and our nation's waterways."
"This administration believes it makes sense to spend $27 million on a dam in Mosul, Iraq, but that it is too expensive to invest in our nation's waterway infrastructure," Stupak said. "I am pleased my colleagues voted to override this veto to enact WRDA, which is critical to maintaining our Great Lakes.
It was the first override of a Bush veto ever. Michigan's entire congressional delegation voted in favor of the override. The vote in the house to override the veto was 361-54, and in the senate the vote was 79-14. Several Republicans in both the house and senate voted to override the veto.
Funding for the projects will need to be secured through the appropriation process. The projects are estimated to cost upwards of $23 billion.
Two projects in Ontonagon will effect the western Upper Peninsula, Stupak said.
A provision requiring the Army Corps of Engineers to study extending the Federal Navigation Channel in Ontonagon 1,000 feet upstream was included in the legislation. It is possible to extend the harbor because the Michigan Department of Transportation relocated the M-64 highway bridge to a new location.
Extending the harbor will allow additional shipping capacity and economic growth in the Ontonagon area.
Another provision authorizing re-construction of a walkway on the east pier in Ontonagon was also included in the legislation. Prior to an Army Corps of Engineers project in 1995, the City of Ontonagon constructed a walkway on the east pier using state and local funds.
According to Stupak, however, it is believed that the 1995 Corps project caused severe wave action that destroyed the east pier Walkway. The Corps would be required to repair the damage it has caused, he added.
The final bill also includes a provision Stupak authored requiring the U.S. Army Corps to stop using a tonnage-based standard for determining which harbors to dredge. He said the tonnage-based policy hurts rural harbors and communities.
"Many rural, northern Michigan communities depend upon shipping to support their local economy," Stupak said. "The administration's tonnage-based standard makes it difficult for many harbors in northern Michigan to be dredged."
Elsewhere in the U.P., the act authorizes construction of a second Poe-sized replacement lock at Sault Ste. Marie. The project is estimated to cost almost $342 million.
The act also authorizes a navigation project at Menominee Harbor.
Downstate, several other projects were approved with the override. Environmental restoration of the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair is estimated to cost about $20 million. The act authorizes $35 million to target sewer overflows throughout the state.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.