Great Lakes Small Harbors Coalition Building Momentum in New York
Great Lakes Boating & Marine Trades - Press Release


Dave White, New York Sea Grant, 315-312-3042

Chuck May, Great Lakes Small Harbors Coalition, 231-889-5607


See Sidebar 1:  diverse groups represented at meetings

See Sidebar 2: NY’s federally-authorized harbors

Oswego, NY, October 30, 2009 - Great Lakes Small Harbors Coalition Chair Pro-Tem Chuck May is recruiting Lake Erie, Niagara River, Lake Ontario, and St. Lawrence River harbors for the grassroots effort that seeks to secure federal funding for shallow draft and commercial harbors and he is receiving a warm welcome in New York.

“This regional coalition will help New York’s recreational and commercial small harbors address management, dredging and funding needs by recognizing the eight Great Lakes states and hundreds of shoreline communities as all part of the greater Great Lakes system,” said New York Sea Grant Recreation and Tourism Specialist Dave White.

“This coalition is initially focused on reforming the federal process that funds the needs of our federally-authorized harbors that are in critical condition, however, we already have resolutions from many types of harbors. The work of this coalition will be good for all harbors throughout the Great Lakes region,” May said.

The Great Lakes Small Harbors Coalition is an outgrowth of the Michigan Small Harbors Coalition, established in 2007. That grassroots effort last year secured $6 million in omnibus federal funding for federally-authorized shallow draft (also called small) harbors in Michigan. May is now taking the Michigan-based effort Great Lakes-wide.

Earlier this week at meetings organized by New York Sea Grant and co-sponsored by Orleans County Planning and Tourism and the Oswego County Department of Community Planning, Tourism and Promotion, May spoke to nearly 50 representatives of New York’s waterfront interests, including harbor masters, elected officials, and representatives of marinas and marine trade associations, yacht clubs, port authorities and government, environmental, and tourism agencies.
Oswego County Department of Community Planning, Tourism and Promotion Executive Director David Turner said, “Oswego County is blessed with 35 beautiful miles of Lake Ontario shoreline. The Port of Oswego and three smaller harbors generate millions of dollars every year in our commercial and recreational business sectors. Joining the Great Lakes Small Harbor Coalition provides us with tremendous opportunity to have our collective voices heard at the federal level and to ensure that these harbors can function at their highest level of service and that they will continue to serve the business and leisure needs of our citizenry.”

Port of Oswego Authority Executive Director Jonathan Daniels said, “In 2008, because of the loss in harbor depth, unloading a salt ship required four vessels for what would usually take three. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer was able to secure funding for emergency dredging last year. The Port Authority now also oversees the Oswego Marina and International Marina with 175 boat slips. A system that provides funding for sustainable maintenance of large and small harbors may prevent the need for emergency response.”

Resolutions Secured & Sought from Great Lakes’ Harbor Municipalities

At present, the only requirement of membership in the GLSHA is a formally approved resolution supporting the Coalition and its goals from a harbor’s home municipality.

“The mission is to secure resolutions of support from the federally-designated harbors as well as the advocates for other harbors, upstream communities, marine and sportfishing associations, port authorities, and others,” May said.

District 1 Oswego County Legislator Margaret Kastler told the group meeting in Oswego, NY, that at the November 12th meeting the county legislature will have the opportunity to pass a resolution acknowledging the coalition.

The Chautauqua County Town of Westfield, home to Barcelona Harbor on Lake Erie, was the first New York municipality to pass a resolution to join the Great Lakes Small Harbors Coalition.

At the Albion, NY, meeting with May, Orleans County Planning and Tourism Director Wayne Hale noted that a similar resolution will soon be presented to the Orleans County legislature.

Orleans County Sportfishing Coordinator Michael Waterhouse says, “Not only do these great harbors provide important economic input to the counties and to the state, they also supply fantastic recreational opportunities for our residents right in their own backyard. For years each harbor and small groups of harbors have been working hard to maintain proper funding for maintenance of their harbors. The time has come to join together and show those who control this funding the true value of these small harbors.”

Forty-three of Michigan’s 57 federally-authorized harbors (three-quarters each of all commercial and shallow draft harbors) are currently members of the Great Lakes Small Harbor Coalition. Those harbors represent 1.5 million citizens. May estimates that New York has an equal or larger number of shoreline citizenry.

Small Harbors Must Collect Data, Tell Their Economic Value Story

Workshop presenters Kathy M. Griffin, Chief of Operations for the Buffalo District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Keith R. Jones, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Operations and Maintenance Civil Engineer; Great Lakes Commission Special Projects Manager David L. Knight, White and May all agreed that small harbor representatives must communicate the fact-based value of their harbors in terms of jobs and other economic impacts and stakeholder/citizen numbers.

White reviewed 10 years’ worth of research funded by New York Sea Grant and others that shows the New York state-level value of marinas, sportfishing, charter services, and scuba diving.

“This research identifies user groups whose interests connect with those of the Great Lakes Small Harbors Coalition,” White said.

“In many ways, New York is doing a better job than other states at telling its story. Our harbors are in truly critical condition and we have to make sure there is no question about the need for help and the ripple value of those harbors through our communities,” May said. “This is about money and the voice of the citizen still counts. The funding process to help our harbors is broken. The Great Lakes Small Harbors Coalition is about creating an equitable, sustainable needs-based budget line item.”

May said the small harbors coalition has support from advocates for both commercial and non-commercial harbors. He noted that federal budgets in recent years have only met half of the needs of commercial harbors and none of the needs of shallow draft harbors.

“We need increased funding, not reallocation of existing funds,” May said.

The Great Lakes region received only 1.6 percent of the stimulus money allocated for projects nationwide by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for maintaining all federally-authorized harbors.

Of 139 current federally-authorized harbor projects in the Great Lakes, Michigan has 70, New York and Wisconsin each have 21, and Ohio has 15.

Griffin said, “The federal Great Lakes Navigation System has 60 commercial harbors and 79 shallow harbors. Due to budgetary constraints, the sediment dredging work in the system is currently backlogged and not expected to improve without additional funding.”

Knight reviewed economic impact data identified by the Great Lakes Recreational Boating Economic Benefit Study commissioned by then-Senator John Glenn of Ohio and  published in January 2009 and online at

“Recreational boaters in the Great Lakes states produce $22 billion in economic value annually. The region has 4.2 million of the 8.4 million boaters nationally,” Knight said. “The study estimated that boaters in the Great Lakes states spend $529 million on vessel-related expenditures and another $665 million on trip-related expenditures. That makes the cost-benefit ratio of a request for funding to maintain Great Lakes small harbors pretty attractive.”

For more information and research reports on Great Lakes’ harbors, visit the New York Sea Grant website at or contact Dave White at 315-312-3042. The Great Lakes Small Harbors Coalition website is found at

Sidebar Option 1 of 2:
Who wants to know about the Great Lakes Small Harbors Coalition?

Those attending meetings in Albion and Oswego to introduce the Great Lakes Small Harbors Coalition included representatives of marinas, yacht clubs, and such groups as:

  • Braddock Bay Community Development Corporation
  • Cayuga County Water and Sewer Authority
  • Center for Environmental Information
  • City of Oswego
  • Gateway Trade Center Metroport, Buffalo
  • Great Lakes Commission
  • Great Lakes Seaway Trail
  • Lake Ontario Coastal Initiative
  • Monroe County
  • New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
  • New York State Department of State Coastal Zone Management Program
  • Niagara County Fisheries Development Board
  • Orleans County Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Port Authority of Ogdensburg.
  • Port Authority of Oswego
  • Sandy Pond Channel Maintenance Association
  • Sodus Bay Improvement Association
  • The Ontario Dune Coalition
  • Town of Olcott
  • Town of Wilson
  • Tug Hill Commission
  • US Army Corps of Engineers
  • US Coast Guard
  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Village of Fair Haven
  • Village of Sodus Point
  • Western NY Marine Trades Association.

Orleans County Legislator Gary Kent, and aides to U.S. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, New York State Senator George Maziarz, and New York State Assemblyman Steve Hawley attended the meeting in Albion.

Sidebar Option 2 of 2:
Where are New York’s Federally-Authorized Harbors?

The Great Lakes Small Harbor Coalition, an outgrowth of a Michigan-based grassroots effort that was successful at securing federal funding for federally-authorized shallow depth harbors in Michigan, is uniting the interests of federal and non-federal harbors, large and small harbors, commercial and non-commercial harbors throughout the Great Lakes Region. New York’s 20 federally-authorized harbors are listed below; commercial harbors are noted with a C; recreational harbors with a R.

St. Lawrence River Ports (3):

  • Ogdensburg (C)
  • Morristown (R)
  • Cape Vincent (R)

Lake Ontario Ports (10):

  • Sackets Harbor (R)
  • Port Ontario (R)
  • Oswego (C)
  • Little Sodus Bay (R)
  • Great Sodus Bay (R)
  • Irondequoit Bay (R)
  • Rochester (C)
  • Oak Orchard (R)
  • Olcott (R)
  • Wilson (R)

Niagara River Ports (3):

  • Little River (R)
  • Black Rock Lock/Tonawanda (C)
  • Buffalo (C)

Lake Erie Ports (4):

  • Sturgeon Point (C)
  • Cattaraugus (R)
  • Dunkirk (C)
  • Barcelona (R)*

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