Legislator Awards – Great Lake Maritime Task Force
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Since 1998, the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force has been proud to recognize members of the U.S. Great Lakes delegation in Washington who have made significant contributions to keeping waterborne commerce on the Lakes a key component of the nation’s transportation system. Our Great Lakes Legislator of the Year Awards go to the maritime industry’s biggest champions. The selection process is not easy. The Great Lakes delegation is one of the best in Washington, and its members all spearhead incredible and important work. Listed below are those we have honored to date.


Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI)

Congressman Gallagher has spearheaded legislation that invests in shipbuilding on the Great Lakes, improves the maritime supply chain during the winter, and ensures the Great Lakes Navigation System remains viable for years to come. Congressman Gallagher introduced the Supplying Help to Infrastructure in Ports, Yards, and America’s Repair Dock (SHIPYARD) Act of 2021 that would provide $25 billion to make investments needed to optimize, improve, and rebuild shipyard facilities, electrical infrastructure, environmental systems, and the equipment of public and private shipyards in the U.S. that support the U.S. Navy fleet. He also introduced the Great Lakes Winter Commerce Act, a bill that would clearly define the U.S. Coast Guard’s (USCG) responsibility for icebreaking on the Great Lakes. Currently, the USCG conducts Great Lakes icebreaking based on an 85-year-old Executive Order that fails to clearly define the USCG’s mission. Congressman Gallagher was a staunch supporter of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) 2020.  He ensured a 13% set-aside in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for the Great Lakes Navigation System. Previous legislation included funding for small harbors like the Port of Green Bay but failed to sufficiently increase the funding to adequate levels. This bill increased the amount allotted to harbors on the Great Lakes Navigation System from 10% to 13% with actual funding levels this year approaching 15%.


Senator Gary Peters (D-MI)

Senator Peters has moved the needle on several extremely important projects in the Great Lakes.  He continues to be instrumental in efficiently funding the construction of a new large navigational lock in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan.  Senator Peters understands the economic benefits of Great Lakes shipping and the need to make our ports competitive and reliable even during the winter season.  To that end, he cosponsored the “Great Lakes Winter Commerce Act” which would make icebreaking a higher priority for the U.S. Coast Guard and ensured $350 million was included in the pending House Reconciliation Bill for another heavy Great Lakes icebreaker.  In addition, he has worked tirelessly with the Port of Monroe to resolve import and export issues associated with U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s interpretation of rules that hampered further port development with containerized cargo. 


Congressman John Molenaar (R-MI)

Thanks to Congressman John Moolenaar’s (R-MI) leadership, the linchpin of the Great Lakes Navigation System and the nation’s economy, a new large navigational lock in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, is under construction. Congressman Moolenaar has actively advocated for the Great Lakes Navigation System and continues to protect the Great Lakes and the mariners that ply the waters. He was instrumental in increasing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers funding for the Great Lakes, securing a substantial share of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for the system’s operation and maintenance. Congressman Moolenaar has been a staunch supporter of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), putting the protection of our waters at the top of the list.


Senator Rob Portman (R-OH)

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH, 11th from left) receives his award as Great Lakes Legislator of the Year. Senator Portman played a key role in passing the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act as part of the Coast Guard Authorization Bill. While preserving a role for the states and the Environmental Protection Agency, it charged the Coast Guard with primary responsibility for implementing and enforcing vessel regulations. Senator Portman negotiated language that overwhelmingly passed the House and Senate. As a member of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, Senator Portman understands that the economic security, homeland security and national security interests of the United States are best served by vessels crewed, built and owned by Americans.


Congressman Jack Bergman (R-MI)

Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI, 7th from left) accepts his award as Great Lakes Legislator of the Year. Rep. Bergman has quickly become recognized as a leader on Great Lakes and Seaway issues.  This reflects that his district fronts on three of the five Great Lakes: Superior, Michigan and Huron.  GLTMF is especially grateful that Rep. Bergman spoke directly to President Trump about the need for a second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.  Within hours of Congressman Bergman talking to the President, our nation’s leader publicly declared his support for fixing the Soo Locks. Congressman Bergman’s commitment to adequate U.S. Coast Guard icebreaking resources is another reason for his selection. When heavy ice covers the Lakes, the resumption of the iron ore trade and overseas exports of grain from the Lakes largest grain-shipping ports will be delayed. Rep. Bergman is fully supportive of building another heavy icebreaker to help the MACKINAW and other icebreakers keep commerce moving under even the most trying conditions.


Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)

Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI, 6th from left) receives her award as Great Lakes Legislator of the Year. Sen. Baldwin’s first term in the Senate has been remarkable for her understanding of and commitment to shipping on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway. Her grasp of the issues, and more importantly, her response to the challenges facing shipping on the Fourth Sea Coast has been instrumental in moving several projects forward. In 2016, she added $2 million to begin the design of the icebreaker to the Department of Homeland Security’s appropriations bill. In 2017 she added $5 million to the Coast Guard Authorization Act to further design of the new icebreaker. Shipbuilding is another focus of Baldwin.  Baldwin’s commitment to strong shipyards was recently underscored by her introduction of S. 1100, the Small Shipyards and Maritime Communities Act, which provides assistance for projects that would be effective in fostering efficiency, competitive operations, and quality ship construction, repair, and reconfiguration, as well as projects that promote employee skills and enhance productivity.


Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI)

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI, eight from left) accepts his award as Great Lakes Legislator of the Year.  Senator Johnson has demonstrated time and again that Great Lakes shipping has his full support. From the start he has fully recognized that Great Lakes shipping is a linchpin in both the Wisconsin and national economies and called for better maintenance of ports and waterways and more effective prioritization of federal spending on dredging and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects. Senator Johnson’s Chairmanship of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is another benefit to the Lakes. Senator Johnson’s oversight of the nation’s critical infrastructure helps keep the Corps focused on maintaining the ‘Soo’ Locks’ critical navigation link between the Great Lakes.. Senator Johnson’s focus on bolstering the U.S. Coast Guard’s icebreaking resources on the Great Lakes was yet another reason for his selection as Great Lakes Legislator of the Year. Senator Johnson fully supports the Coast Guard building another heavy icebreaker and accelerating the modernization of its other icebreaking assets.


Congressman David Joyce (R-OH)

Congressman David Joyce (R-OH) accepts his award as Great Lakes Legislator of the Year from the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force. Rep. Joyce’s deep appreciation for Great Lakes shipping stems from having two major ports in his district, Ashtabula and Conneaut. Rep. Joyce has been a tireless advocate for adequate icebreaking resources. Back in February 2015, a U.S.-flag laker bound for Conneaut became icebound for five days and the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker dispatched to free it was unable to get the vessel moving. Its last cargo of the season had to be canceled. Rep. Joyce knows jobs hang in the balance when cargo can’t move during the ice season. The dredging crisis has also had Joyce’s full attention. The efficiencies of Great Lakes shipping are the foundation of the Midwest economy and Congressman Joyce has been laser-focused on bringing more dredging dollars back to the Lakes. The award also recognizes Joyce’s commitment to international shipping via the St. Lawrence Seaway. Northern Ohio businesses have direct and efficient access to world markets because of the Seaway. Imports and exports are key to the future


Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH, fifth from left) accepts his 2015 Great Lakes Legislator of the Year Award from representatives of the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force in Washington, DC, on October 1, 2015. Senator Sherrod Brown’s keen understanding of lake shipping has been invaluable to our industry. Whenever the Senate takes up issues that affect us, Sen. Brown is like a captain on the bridge carefully choosing the best course. The Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014 is a case in point. The years of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) amassing surpluses while harbors go un- or under-dredged are over because WRRDA requires the government to incrementally increase expenditures from the HMTF until they reach 100 percent of receipts by 2025. Sen. Brown’s support will be critical when the Senate takes up the House’s Coast Guard Authorization Act which authorizes the Commandant to design and build another heavy icebreaker for the Great Lakes. The delays and canceled cargoes during the past two ice seasons cost the economy nearly $1.1 billion in business revenue and 5,000 jobs. Brown’s entire political career has been dedicated to protecting American workers from unfair trade and practices, so his support for the Jones Act is unshakeable. Sen. Brown understands that market-distorting practices have slashed the number of American vessels in the international trades, so he is adamant that our domestic trades must be governed by U.S. laws and regulations so that the playing field is level and the commerce creates jobs for Americans.


Congressman Bill Huizenga (R-MI)

Representative Bill Huizenga (R-MI, right) accepts his 2014 Great Lakes Legislator of the Year Award from Mark Pietrocarlo, American Steamship Company. Congressman Huizenga has shown incredible resolve in addressing the dredging crisis on the Great Lakes. His laser-like focus on the issue is one of the big reasons the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) passed by the House in 2013 contains provisions key to ending the dredging crisis. The bill not only calls for more funding for dredging, but designates the Great Lakes a system in terms of dredging. Huizenga’s efforts to end the dredging crisis also have state-wide benefits. Michigan is the state most impacted by the dredging crisis. Michigan boasts more deep-draft ports than the other seven Great Lakes states combined. The largest limestone quarries in the Great Lakes basin and cement plants in Alpena and Charlevoix are dependent on efficient shipping on the Lakes, but the dredging crisis has dramatically reduced the amount of cargo that can be loaded each trip.

Previous Winners


Congresswoman Candice Miller (R-MI)


Congresswoman Betty Sutton (D-OH)


Representative Brian Higgins (D-NY)


Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH)


Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI)


Senator Carl Levin (D-MI)

GLMTF gave Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-MN) its Iron Man Award.


Senator Debbie A. Stabenow (D-MI)

Congressman Mark Green (R-WI)


Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH)

Congressman Vernon Ehlers (R-MI)


Senator George V. Voinovich (R-OH)

Congressman Bart Stupak (D-MI)


Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH)

Congressman Dave Bonior (D-MI)


Congressman Peter J. Visclosky (D-IN)

Congressman Jack Quinn (R-NY)


Congressman David R. Obey (D-WI)

Congressman Steven C. LaTourette (R-OH)


Senator Spencer Abraham (R-MI)

Congressman James L. Oberstar (D-MI)


Senator John D. Glenn (D-OH)

Congressman Louis Stokes (D-OH)