Great Lakes boaters spending $16 billion annually

MUSKEGON, Mich. – A new study has found that Great Lakes boaters spend $16 billion a year on buying and using their boats, creating about 250,000 direct and spinoff jobs in the region, the Muskegon Chronicle reported in a story Thursday.

But the study also found that boating in the eight Great Lakes states is endangered by low water levels and a lack of dredging in the region's 87 harbors by the Army Corps of Engineers, the newspaper reported.

The study, released Wednesday by the Great Lakes Commission, was the first to assess the economic impact of recreational boating on the Great Lakes economy. It found that boaters in the eight Great Lakes states – Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania – spend $11.5 billion a year just on trips, about the same amount the auto industry spends on research and development, according to the newspaper.

"Recreational boating is an economic driver in this state," Tim Eder, executive director of the Ann Arbor-based Great Lakes Commission, told the Chronicle.

Ever-tightening budgets mean the Corps is no longer allowed to dredge recreational harbors from its general budget -- even though it built many of them -- unless it gets a specific appropriation from Congress.

Michigan Lt. Gov. John Cherry, chairman of the Great Lakes Commission, said in a teleconference Wednesday that a permanent funding source for dredging silt and sand that is filling in harbors is needed, the newspaper reported.

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Great Lakes Commission officials say the lack of dredging in Great Lakes harbors is even hindering the work of the Coast Guard and local law enforcement agencies, whose boats operate out of the region's recreational harbors.

The report is available on the Great Lakes Commission Web site at www.glc.org.

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