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.

WASHINGTON D.C.  (April 10, 2024) – On Wednesday, April 10, 2024, the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (GLMTF) recognized the significant contributions Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow has made throughout her Congressional career protecting the Great Navigation System and supporting American jobs with investment in U.S.-flagged Great Lakes shipping.

Senator Stabenow, who co-chairs the bipartisan Senate Great Lakes Task Force, has been the driving force behind the protection of our largest freshwater resource and the maritime highway that supports U.S. jobs through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) which was first authored in 2010 and has since received $3.8 billion in funding.

The GLRI has been a major success with funds provided for over 6,800 projects throughout the region protecting the Great Lakes and its waterways against its greatest threats, and addressing problems that impact public health and safety.  “Our U.S. sailors, port, shipyard, and manufacturing employees depend on the Great Lakes and its connecting waterways for the raw material supply chain to support good paying jobs and their families live here too.  Senator Stabenow’s work for over a decade has proved to be a game changer ensuring our fresh waters are restored and protected for generations to come,” stated Jim Weakley, Vice President of the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force and President of the Lake Carriers Association.

Senator Stabenow has been a critical champion for arguably the most important North American infrastructure project in several years with the construction of a large new U.S. Army Corps of Engineers navigational lock in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan.  Nearly all domestically produced high strength steel is made with iron ore that transits the current large lock, the Poe, built in 1969.  A study conducted by the Department of Homeland Security concluded that a six-month unscheduled outage of the Poe Lock would result in 11 million jobs lost and a $1.1 trillion economic impact.  Recognizing the vital national economic importance and the reality that it is an aging single point of failure for North American manufacturing, Senator Stabenow tirelessly advocated for funding authorization and continued efficient funding of the estimated $3.2 billion mega project securing large annual appropriations to keep the project on track.

The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force is grateful for Senator Stabenow’s service to our county, the Great Lakes Region, and the State of Michigan.  Senator Stabenow is truly a champion for the Great Lakes watershed and the healthy marine transportation system it supports.

The presentation of the award was made at Senator Stabenow’s Washington D.C. office surrounded by many thankful Great Lakes Maritime Task Force members.


Congressman Pete Stauber (R-MN)

Congressman Stauber continues to champion the miners that work on the northern tier of the Great Lakes supplying the critical raw materials that drive the national economy and make the Great Lakes region America’s industrial powerhouse.  The millions of tons of iron ore extracted from Minnesota’s Mesabi Range is transported by U.S.-owned, U.S-crewed, and U.S.-flagged vessels to steel mills in the southern Great Lakes contributing to more than 147,000 American jobs and $36 billion in economic impact.

Congressman Stauber believes in American workers and fully supports the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, more commonly known as the “Jones Act.”  The critical law ensures U.S. cargo is carried by U.S. vessels between U.S. ports keeping our maritime industry strong with 650,000 sustained American jobs.  “Congressman Stauber is invested in America and its dedicated workforce.  I applaud his selection for his tenacious support of the 4th Sea Coast,” stated John D. Baker, International Longshoremen’s Association and President of GLMTF.

The Great Lakes are cold in the winter and when ice forms it can impede commercial vessels, endanger sailors and their ships, and bring North American manufacturing to a halt without adequate federal icebreaking.  Congressman Stauber continues to support icebreaking resources for the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) on the Great Lakes endorsing authorization and appropriations for a new heavy Great Lakes icebreaker for the agency. 


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

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-MN)


Senator John D. Glenn (D-OH)

Congressman Louis Stokes (D-OH)