Fight Over Ferry Prompts Questions on Definition of Earmarks
To its critics, the S.S. Badger is a relic and a menace, a coal-fired car ferry that dumps tons of raw coal ash into Lake Michigan each year as it plies its four-hour route between Manitowoc, Wis., and Ludington, Mich.
... Buried in a Coast Guard reauthorization bill now in final negotiations between the House and Senate is curious language saying a “qualified vessel” shall continue to operate for its entire lifetime, “without regard to any expiration dates” on the permit it operates on. Nowhere does the word “Badger” appear, nowhere is the expiration date of Dec. 19, 2012, noted.
... But the enumerated qualifications — including that it be nominated or on the list of National Historic Landmarks — apply to only one vessel, the S.S. Badger, a 60-year-old ship with a look torn from an old postcard and a permit to operate, coal ash and all, that expires next month. Republicans supposedly put an end to special-interest language slipped into bills to benefit projects or employers in their districts when they took control of the House last year.
... For those needing to traverse Lake Michigan and averse to a slog through Milwaukee, Greater Chicago and the industrial havens of North Indiana, the 410-foot Badger has presented a shortcut since 1953. Its owners glory in its antiquity, advertising it as not only the largest car ferry every to ply Lake Michigan but the only coal-fired steamship left in the United States. Its owners seem to revel in its endangered status. Their Web site includes a petition to “Save Our Ship” that acknowledges the coal-ash dumping and a status report on its quest for a new E.P.A. compliance permit. The Web site promises the ship will be back for the 2013 season once the great lake thaws.
... Economics also comes into play. To Mr. Petri and Mr. Huizenga, it boils down to one word, “jobs,” 200 of them directly dependent on the ferry, 500 more indirectly benefiting from it, $14 million for Manitowoc annually, $21 million for Ludington. Niel Wright, a spokesman for Mr. Petri, said an activist E.P.A., hostile to coal, cannot be left to its devices without some backup plan in Congress. “For Ludington, this has been a way of life for almost 60 years now, and it is a huge part of the economy,” Mr. Huizenga said.Comment: I personally hope it is saved. It's a great way across the lake. Official site