|Mother Nature Only Help for Us|
We should all be praising Mother Nature for her bounty of rain and snow recently. Her plentiful precipitation has raised the Great Lakes somewhere around one foot in the past year, bringing the levels closer to the long-term norm. While we are out on the lake enjoying what we’ve been blessed with, we also have to wonder what the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is thinking.
According to the Lake Carriers’ Association, shipping rates have dropped nearly 60 percent compared to last year. Even with higher water levels, “the largest vessels are still forfeiting 5,000 tons or more each trip because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is not maintaining ports and waterways to project dimensions.” With lower volumes of cargo being hauled, the ships are losing potential income and slowing down the economy. Here, on the coattails of the shipping industry, the forgotten recreational boating public is feeling the effects even more. We get dredging relief only when our waterway happens to align with the shipping lanes.
We agree with the Lake Carriers’ Association, what was the Corps thinking when it allocated only two percent of its stimulus dollars to the Great Lakes. Although 84 percent of the country’s fresh water supply is in the region, Great Lakes shipping creates an economic impact of less than $4 billion. Due to an improper study, we don’t know the exact number for recreational boaters, but it is believed to be between $9 billion and $16 billion. That makes boating two to four times larger than the shipping industry, but the Corps does not think highly of us.
The website for the Corps states, “We are energizing the economy by dredging America’s waterways to support the movement of critical commodities and providing recreation opportunities at our campgrounds, lakes and marinas.” The Great Lakes are essential to both shipping and recreational boating, making up more than two percent of the two industries’ countrywide impacts. We ask, “Where is the fair share for the region?” The Corps also leads us to believe they support recreation opportunities, but unless they think cargo ship workers are on recreational cruises, we haven’t seen one percent of that two percent go toward recreational boating.
To get to that fair share ideal, we must know what the real economic numbers are for both industries. We also need a nationwide comparison. You can look at it from a money standpoint or from a size calculation; either way the region does not make up only two percent of the country’s waterways. While we’re working on figuring out who gets what, we want to know how the shipping industry gets more than the recreational industry when it is much smaller.
Mother Nature is our savior, but if we’ve pushed her too far she won’t stand by us. Then we’ll truly need the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and they are refusing, at this point, to support us.