LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- The Michigan Senate approved $21 million in emergency spending Thursday to dredge 49 Great Lakes harbors facing record-low water levels, an initial move that comes as officials search for permanent funding and solutions.
The bill passed 31-5 and was sent to the House.
Dredging involves removing sediments so water is deep enough for boats and barges. Lake levels continue to decline and the federal government has cut back on dredging, which has frustrated state lawmakers because some of the federal money earmarked for dredging and harbor maintenance has been shifted elsewhere.
"Michigan, along with our fellow Great Lakes states, has an obligation to lead and address the dredging needs faced by our port communities," Sen. Goeff Hansen, R-Hart, said before the vote in urging senators to support the bill. "Sustaining healthy harbors is important because it supports Michigan jobs, fosters entrepreneurship and protects our Great Lakes resources."
Gov. Rick Snyder asked legislators last month for a $21 million mid-year appropriation for dredging.
Under the bill, half the money would be pulled from a fund that comes primarily from motor fuel taxes and pays for improvements to marine infrastructure such as breakwalls and boat ramps. The rest would come from the state's general fund.
Sen. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, voted for the measure but said he had concerns about delaying marina projects, for which $8.7 million would be diverted for dredging. Lawmakers would need to re-appropriate funding for the marina projects, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency.
Five Democrats voted against the legislation.
Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, said she opposed "taking every penny" from the Waterways Fund to do dredging. Others in opposition were Steve Bieda of Warren, Glenn Anderson of Westland, Bert Johnson of Highland Park and Coleman Young II of Detroit.
The bill also would authorize spending $23 million from the Natural Resources Trust Fund for 76 projects. The fund uses royalties from state-leased oil and gas development rights to buy and improve public lands.
Email David Eggert at deggert(at)ap.org and follow him at http://twitter.com/DavidEggert00