Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder made his first-ever trip to the Coast Guard Festival in Grand Haven when he spoke at the U.S. Coast Guard National Memorial Service at Escanaba Park on Friday, Aug. 1.
During his speech, Snyder consistently encouraged the public to honor and remember the duties and contributions of the Coast Guard. Following the ceremony, he took a few minutes to share some of his thoughts on one of those contributions.
The U.S. Coast Guard is currently taking public comments until Aug. 25 on a proposed river barge program in Muskegon, which aims to allow barges from the Mississippi River system to travel on Lake Michigan along the western shore of Michigan.
Snyder was aware of the proposal and said the comment period is something he and his staff will be paying close attention to.
“There are some important issues and that’s the good part about having the comment period,” he said. “I’m actually very interested in making sure that we’re reviewing those comments, too.”
Snyder said there are two facets of the proposal he is most interested in: the condition of the barges and the threat of invasive species.
“Two things really stand out to me are one, how seaworthy is the barge since we’re bringing barges that are made for rivers across the Great Lakes. We don’t want to see challenges there,” he said. “The second is the whole question of invasive species with the Asian carp and such.”
The concern of whether or not the barges are seaworthy may be answered in the Coast Guard’s stipulations for such a program.
If the program — which requires the obtaining of a load-line exemption — is approved, barges would be permitted to travel on Lake Michigan under the same stipulations presently observed by barges traveling to Wisconsin. These guidelines require barges to remain within five miles of the shoreline, transit only under favorable weather conditions, and only carry dry, non-hazardous cargoes.
The governor wasn’t ready to fully support a barge program but did say he is encouraged by such ideas.
“It’s not an easy question to answer and there are some challenges that need to be addressed before I think we’d want to be supportive of something like that,” he said. “It’s always good that people have innovative ideas; we just need to make sure we’re doing it in the context of making sure that things are safe and we’re protecting the Great Lakes also.”
Comments on the proposed river barge system in Muskegon can be made at http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=USCG-2013-095