Badger could still be scuttled with provision lacking in key bill

Tribune News Service • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:56 AM

The Coast Guard reauthorization bill has been sent to President Barack Obama for his signature without a provision that would have allowed the SS Badger — a 410-foot vessel that carries freight, passengers and cars from Ludington to Manitowoc, Wis., for a season that typically last five months a year — to operate under its current permit without regard to any expiration date.

Republican U.S. Reps. Bill Huizenga of Zeeland and Dan Benishek of Crystal Falls — as well as Tom Petri, R-Wis. — had included the provision in the original House version of the reauthorization bill. It was stripped out by House and Senate conferrers negotiating a final product and had run into opposition from U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Chicago, one of the most powerful Democrats in the Senate.

It means that the Badger, whose season has ended until May, faces an uncertain future with a permit allowing the historic ship to dump some 500 tons of coal ash into Lake Michigan each year set to expire next Wednesday.

Lake Michigan Carferry, the company that runs the vessel, has asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a new permit while it continues to look for alternatives for dumping coal ash in the lake. As a practical matter, its permit could expire and not affect the company if it can secure a new one by the time its next season begins. But if it cannot get one or find an alternative, it could mean the end for the 60-year-old ferry.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Carl Levin's office said Thursday that the Coast Guard reauthorization bill includes a provision that will keep the National Park Service's M.V. (for Motor Vessel) Ranger III supplying diesel fuel and other supplies to Isle Royale on Lake Superior.

A provision in the legislation grants the Park Service a waiver from federal requirements that all vessels carrying oil as cargo be double-hulled. The Ranger transports about 80,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year to the remote island, which is accessible from the mainland only by boat or aircraft.

— From the Detroit Free Press (MCT)

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