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Baldwin Brings Senate Hearing to Green Bay to Discuss Great Lakes Economy

Head of the U.S. Coast Guard testified on icebreaking, impact on economy; Hearing shines light on need for a new heavy ice breaker on the Great Lakes

WATCH: Senator Baldwin’s opening remarks here


GREEN BAY, WI – Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Oceans, Fisheries, Climate Change, and Manufacturing, hosted a congressional field hearing in Green Bay to highlight the need for increased icebreaking capacity on the Great Lakes. The hearing, entitled ‘The Importance of Great Lakes Icebreaking to the Regional Economy,’ featured Admiral Linda Fagan, Commandant of the Coast Guard, along with representatives from the Coast Guard and business leaders who rely on the Great Lakes to transport goods.

“Icebreaking during the winter months is crucial for Wisconsin businesses, getting goods on shelves and supporting thousands of jobs. That’s why I have consistently advocated for investing more into our icebreaking capacity, including securing a new heavy Great Lakes icebreaker in 2022,” said Senator Baldwin. “Today, we brought Congress to Green Bay to shed light on this issue, celebrate our progress supporting the Made in Wisconsin economy, and discuss the work ahead to ensure that commerce on the Great Lakes keeps moving forward.”

In 2022, Senator Baldwin successfully secured an authorization of $350 million for a new Great Lakes Ice Breaker, which she championed in her bipartisan Great Lakes Winter Commerce Act. During the 2018 to 2019 ice season, inadequate icebreaking caused businesses that depend upon the Great Lakes maritime industry to lose over $1 billion in revenues and 5,000 jobs to be cut throughout the Great Lakes Region.

“The Great Lakes region is vital to North American industry, which generates an estimated $6 trillion in gross domestic product annually. The waterways which support this industry are environmentally dynamic and seasonal in nature, demanding a ready workforce and fleet. Today, Coast Guard icebreaking operations, international partnerships, and efforts to recapitalize our domestic icebreaking fleet are vital for the Service to sustain readiness, resilience, and capability for missions throughout this region,” testified Admiral Fagan, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. “With the support of the Administration and Congress, your Coast Guard will continue to live up to our motto—Semper Paratus—Always Ready.”

“The Port of Green Bay is a fundamental part of our regional economy, our history and our lives. It plays an important role in the transportation of goods and commodities that are critical to the economic health of the region. The Port of Green Bay receives and/or sends commodities as far south as Sheboygan, Wisconsin, west to Wausau, Wisconsin and north into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan,” testified Dean Haen, Director of the Brown County Port and Resource Recovery Department. “Wisconsin businesses rely on Great Lakes shipping. USCG icebreakers are crucial national assets that support the movement of ships here on the Great Lakes during the winter months.”

“A reliable Great Lakes Navigation System (GLNS) is critical to the success of our nation and the economy. Similar to interstate highways, infrastructure is a key component to a safe and efficient maritime system,” testified James Weakley, President of the Lake Carriers’ Association. “USCG icebreakers are a critical piece of maritime infrastructure which, when adequate in both numbers and capability, facilitate the movement of commerce via the most economically and environmentally friendly mode of transportation: bulk cargo ships known as ‘Lakers’ on the Great Lakes.”

A full list of witnesses and a full recording of the hearing is available here.

A recording of Senator Baldwin’s opening remarks is available here.