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Great Lakes Article:

Indiana Port Commission supports Great Lakes study
Debra Gruszecki
Northwest Indiana Times

PORTAGE -- The Indiana Port Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to urge the Indiana congressional delegation support funding a $20 million navigation system study to deepen portions of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway.

The review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would be done to allow larger ships to come into the waterway.

At this time, almost none of the world's ocean-going vessels can pass through the aged system of locks, channels and ports on the Great Lakes.

The International Port at Burns Harbor is a leader among Great Lakes ports, said William Friedman, executive director of the Ports of Indiana, so the study is important.

"Improving the seaway is vital to the future of our port system and to the future of Indiana businesses,'' Friedman said, noting it is an economic necessity.

The Port of Indiana's economic activities generate more than 3,400 total jobs, $144 million in annual wages and an economic impact of $585 million. And so far, tonnage figures have broken the 2001 record.

Tonnage through September was up overall 15 percent over the same period last year at all three Indiana ports. Jody Peacock, communications manager, said Burns Harbor tonnage rose 18 percent year-to-year.

Gains at Burns Harbor, which annually ships more than 2 million tons of cargo from its 13 working docks, were reflected in steel, up 208,000 tons; grain, up 118,000 tons; and limestone, up 66,000 tons through September over the same period in 2001. Pot ash/coke tonnage, though, dropped around 25,000 tons.

"It's basically been a pretty good year with everything that's gone on with the economy,'' Peacock said. "Certainly it's been a poor growing season for grain, so this is a good sign for Burns Harbor."

The navigation review study, approved by Congress, awaits its first year of funding in 2003. The Corps, which hopes to contribute $10 million over five years toward the study, is seeking the other $10 million from Canada. One study item includes construction of a 35-foot deep ship channel from Montreal to Duluth, Minn.

In other action, the authority awarded a $180,268 contract to Tonn & Blank to build a 2,000-square-foot seaman's center featuring a multipurpose room, kitchen and shower.

The single-story center, will serve as a home-away-from-home for the seamen -- some of whom hail from Third World countries.

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