Senators push for new Great Lakes heavy icebreaking ship

Lake Michigan, four miles out from Port Sheldon. (Courtesy Herb R. Harney via ReportIt - Jan. 29, 2014)

DETROIT (AP) — Eight U.S. senators from the Great Lakes region are pushing for federal funding of a new icebreaking vessel to clear paths for winter cargo shipping.

Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and six colleagues from neighboring states have sent a letter to leaders of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security requesting money to design and build the craft.

The U.S. Coast Guard has nine cutters on the Great Lakes that have some icebreaking capability. But the Mackinaw is the only “heavy icebreaker” assigned to the lakes, which has led to significant backlogs in recent winters.

The senators’ letter says thick ice caused a 3.2-million-ton drop in Great Lakes freight shipping last winter, costing $355 million in lost revenue and nearly 2,000 jobs.

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