When Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) announced that he would not seek reelection this November it signaled the loss of one of the Great Lakes-Seaway System's most senior, and most effective, advocates. Levin, 79, is currently Michigan's senior senator and the six-term Democrat has served longer than any other U.S. Senator in Michigan political history.
When the Senator Levin announced he wouldn't be seeking re-election early last year, Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI) immediately jumped into the race and very quickly sewed up consensus party nominee status. Literally overnight, he became the decided general election front runner due to the fact that Michiganders haven't elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate since 1994.
Things got even better for Peters when the Republicans stumbled out of the gate. Former two-term Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land eventually became the concensus GOP standard-bearer, but she appeared to be a reluctant candidate at first, so much so that the GOP party leadership made no secret of the fact that they were trying to recruit someone who they believed would be a stronger opponent for Peters.
Putting Michigan into play is extremely important for the Republicans if they are to make a serious run at wresting the majority away from the Democratic Party.
The adroit Peters shrewdly won his last congressional election by jumping into a crowded majority African-American Detroit-area congressional district after redistricting eliminated his previous Oakland County-anchored district when the state lost a seat in national reapportionment.
However, Peters may have backed himself into a bit of a corner at an early stage in the race to succeed Levin. It is never good when a candidate in any campaign begins trading fire with a person or entity other than his or her opponent; but, that's what the Peters operation has done. When the subject of the controversy is an individual who has a life-threatening disease, the negative reverberations are even worse.
Julie Boonstra is a long time Michigan resident who is stricken with leukemia. She claims that the Affordable Care Act has made her healthcare situation worse, for treatment and cost reasons. The conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity featured Ms. Boonstra in a statewide ad campaign, and Peters' campaign erupted. They first claimed that her statements about Obamacare had not been verified and attempted to force television stations throughout Michigan to stop airing the ads. Not surprisingly, AFP has just launched a new statewide ad again featuring Ms. Boonstra, and this time she pleads with Peters to stop attacking her and instead asks for his help.
The ad campaign has put Peters in the difficult position of being in a public relations battle with a cancer patient and while the putative GOP nominee, Land, sits quietly on the sidelines of the battle.
Starting much later than Peters, she has surprisingly exceeded his total fundraising ($3.71 million to $3.46 million). A new series of independent polls consistently post her to slight leads over the Detroit-area congressman.
What many political observers predicted would be a safe Democratic seat is now quickly becoming one of the most closely-watched Senate races in the country.
Yesterday afternoon, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its final "Fiscal Year 14 Workplan."
The document provides an outline of how the Corps plans to spend the money appropriated by the Congress for the current fiscal year.
In January, Congressional negotiators agreed to a federal budget for FY2014 that basically funded the amounts requested by the Obama Administration for the Army Corps of Engineers' operations and maintenance programs and added an additional $270 million in much-needed harbor maintenance spending.
Great Lakes commercial harbors were eligible to receive $200 million of the additoinal $270 million.
In early February, Members of the Great Lakes Congressional delegation sent letters to the Corps of Engineers urging that $30 million of the $270 million be set aside for Great Lakes harbors.
In the Corps' FY 2014 Workplan, the Great Lakes received slightly more than $25 million of the additional $270 million appropriated by the Congress. Of the $25 million in additional funds going to projects in the Great Lakes region, $13.8 will be spent on dredging at 18 American Great Lakes harbors. An additional $11.2 million will be spent on breakwater and lock repairs.
The Panama Canal Authority and a European consortium which is leading the construction effort to expand the international waterway have reached an agreement to complete work on the project that has been stalled over $1.6 billion in cost overruns.
Jorge Quijano, the Administrator of the Panama Canal Authority said in a prepared statement, "We have reached a conceptual agreement that protects the interests of the Panama Canal."
Under the deal, the Panama Canal Authority and European construction consortium, GUPC would each inject $100 million for immediate cash flow needs to fully resume work immediately.
The deal would also extend repayment of advanced payments made by the Panama Canal Authority to the consortium that are worth $784 million until 2018.
Under the terms of the agreement, the European consortium led by Spanish builder, Sacyr, and the Italian firm, Salini Impregilo, will finish the work on the Canal by December 2015.
Work on the expension project has been stopped for more than two-weeks over a dispute has sparked concerns of a long-term delay that might have snarled international shipping and cost the Panama Canal Authority and the Panamanian government millions of dollars in lost toll revenue. The delay was being closely watched by shipping companies and cargo interests that have been banking on increases in the Panama Canal's capacity to allow larger ships to use the waterway that links the Atlantic and Pacific through a narrow, 50-mile isthmus.