MAREC hosts discussion on river barge access in Muskegon

At right, Jim Byrum, president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association.
At right, Jim Byrum, president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association.
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A discussion to propose allowing river barges access to the port of Muskegon took place at Grand Valley’s Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center December 6.

The Michigan Agri-Business Association (MABA) and a group of business leaders, including government agencies, marine transport businesses and state and local-elected officials, gathered to discuss the opportunities a river barge would bring, such as economic development.

Arn Boezaart, director of MAREC, said supporting this initiative aligns with MAREC’s mission of supporting and advancing economic development for the Lakeshore region, as well as the renewable energy sector. He said that in addition to serving the transportation needs of the Michigan agricultural sector, many other transportation needs could be served.

“This would also be a key asset in attracting the future development of the renewable energy industry. For example, commercial wind turbine blades, towers and related components continue to become bigger, longer and heavier. Having a modern barge shipping terminal to support an emerging industry like commercial scale wind would place West Michigan in a very competitive position,” said Boezaart.

Jim Byrum, president of MABA, said the Port of Muskegon is well-positioned to act as a hub for shipping, including agricultural bulk cargoes such as fertilizer and grain, because the basic infrastructure is already in place.

The U.S. Coast Guard is in the process of reviewing MABA’s request for limited river barge access to the section of Lake Michigan between Chicago and Muskegon.