State Budget Would Cut Money For Port Projects

Local Officials Say Federal Funding Has Also Ebbed In Recent Years

Eli Sagor (CC-BYNC)

Wisconsin ports won’t see any additional state money for maintenance or improvement projects under Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget.

The Harbor Assistance Program received around $17 million in segregated funds and bonding in the last budget. The program helps pay for dock repair, ship building and more. Wisconsin Commercial Ports Association President Dean Haen said it would receive around $1.3 million for port projects under the governor’s budget.

“It just makes them that more challenging to get off the ground and to update existing facilities or approve new infrastructure for new businesses at our ports,” Haen said.

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Superior Planning and Ports Director Jason Serck said it’s helped private companies invest around $25 million in dredging and dock wall repairs.

“It would really deter any further investment and it would be, just more or less, maintenance that they would be doing,” Serck said.

Sheri Walz with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation said since 1980, the program has invested around $114 million in port projects.

“A number of states are hoping they can have this type of a program to help the commercial ports improve the transportation system,” Walz said.

Duluth Seaway Port Authority Facilities Manager Jim Sharrow said port officials are trying to increase Minnesota funding for ports.

“The nice thing about the Wisconsin support is that it recognizes the need to assist private dock owners. In Minnesota, it’s just the public-owned dock infrastructure,” Sharrow said.

The DOT’s Walz said the program fills a gap as federal funding has declined.