Peters Announces $11 Million in Federal Funding for Port of Monroe

DETROIT, MI – U.S. Senator Gary Peters today announced that the Port of Monroe has been awarded $11,051,586 through the Port Infrastructure Development Program, funding that will be critical for strengthening and expanding the Port’s capabilities. The grant was awarded by the United States Maritime Administration (MARAD), an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Peters supported the Port’s application for this federal funding.

“The Port of Monroe is not only a critical resource for manufacturers in Michigan and across the Great Lakes region, but it also plays a crucial role in ensuring efficient trade and transport of products that families and businesses rely on every day,” said Senator Peters, Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee Surface Transportation, Maritime, Freight, and Ports. “I was pleased to support the Port’s effort to secure this funding, which will expand cargo capacity, increase economic activity for the region and strengthen supply chains. I’ll keep fighting to make sure the Port is treated fairly, has the resources necessary to compete on a level playing field and reaches its full potential.”

“There are but a few rare moments in a Port’s history which can be considered monumental. This grant award represents the single largest investment in the Port of Monroe’s infrastructure since the organization’s creation in 1932 and will have profound effects on the sustainability and enhancement of our maritime infrastructure which supports the Port of Monroe’s continued growth as a regional hub for both domestic and international renewable energy cargoes,” said Paul LaMarre, Port Director of the Port of Monroe. “Senator Peters is the Port of Monroe’s champion. His unequivocal support for the Great Lakes maritime industry and Michigan’s role as the ‘Great Lakes State’ is second to none. His support of this grant and our continued efforts is humbly appreciated and will have far reaching effects on our Port’s future.”

The Port of Monroe Project award will go toward its Lake Erie Renewable Energy Resilience Project, funding four components: riverfront work, turning basin work, maritime readiness slip construction and shore power infrastructure.

  1. Component 1—Riverfront work will include replacing the surface of the existing wharf, constructing a second riverfront wharf to be used exclusively for vessel transfer of wind energy cargos, and reinforcing shoreline stabilization;
  2. Component 2—Turning Basin work will include rehabilitating the concrete dock cap, bollard and fender installation, and replacing roughly 390 feet of failed sheet pile;
  3. Component 3—Small Boat “Maritime Readiness Slip” construction will include demolishing and rehabilitating an existing small boat slip to be used by harbor assist vessels; and
  4. Component 4—Shore Power infrastructure will include removing existing overhead lines and providing shore power to the riverfront wharves.

Peters has been a strong advocate for increased funding for Michigan’s ports. During negotiations for the bipartisan infrastructure law, Peters pushed for and succeeded in securing increased investments for the Port Infrastructure Development Program to fund port infrastructure needed to improve freight mobility, address port congestion, and improve port competitiveness.

As Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Peters has supported funding for the Port Security Grant Program and has fought to support Michigan’s ports, especially the Port of Monroe, and ensure they receive fair treatment. Last year, he announced the Port of Monroe received a $770,983 federal grant to help upgrade cargo screening infrastructure and previously helped secure a $1.1 million federal grant for the Port to expand its maritime commerce operations. A bipartisan measure coauthored by Peters was signed into law requiring federal officials to assess all ports of entry, including finding ways to reduce wait times for passengers and cargo at the border. Peters has also repeatedly pressed U.S. Customs and Border Protection on why the Port of Monroe is being held to standards that are not applied to other ports in the region. He toured the Port of Monroe last year with Customs and Border Protection officials and Port of Monroe leaders to assess current operations and discuss resolving ongoing cargo clearance challenges that impact commerce at the port.

Newest Ship on the Great Lakes makes first Monroe call

Monroe, MI – The M/V Mark W. Barker, the newest ship on the Great Lakes, visited the Port of Monroe for the first time this past week.

The ship loaded a cargo of synthetic gypsum at the turning basin dock for delivery to Port Colborne, Ontario.

While moored at the Turning basin dock, the newest ship sailing the Great Lakes shared dock space with the oldest operating vessel on the inland seas. The Great Lakes Towing Tug Georgia dates all the way back to 1897 and is still active out of Monroe providing ship assistance and ice breaking services.

The Barker was built at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, and entered service earlier this year. It is the first Great Lakes bulk carrier to be built on the Great Lakes in over 35 years, and is the first new vessel in Interlake’s fleet since 1981.

The Barker has a square-shaped, flat-bottomed cargo hold instead of a traditional V-shaped angled bottom found on most self-unloaders. The ship also has five large hydraulically controlled stackable MacGregor hatches that offer enhanced flexibility with project cargoes and expedite loading operations.

This combination of larger hatch openings and additional cargo hold space will allow the Barker to handle traditional bulk cargoes on the Great Lakes, as well as breakbulk cargoes like wind tower components.

“Any time a vessel of the Interlake Steamship Co. calls upon the Port, it is special. In this case, it is historic,” said Capt. Paul C. LaMarre III, Port Director, Port of Monroe. “Interlake’s continued support of our growth and cargo diversification has made them a major piece of the Port’s living Great Lakes legacy.”

The Mark W. Barker is named after Interlake’s current President and second-generation leader of the family owned and operated Interlake Steamship fleet.

More on the Mark W. Barker here:

Wind tower project wraps up at the Port of Monroe

Today, the Port of Monroe is celebrating the completion of a wind tower project that saw 90 wind tower sections move on an all-marine route to Oswego, New York.

The towers were manufactured by Monroe-based Ventower Industries, the only active wind turbine tower manufacturer in the United States located at a Port. The Port’s terminal operator, DRM Terminal Services, worked with Capital City Crane group crews to efficiently load the components at the Port’s riverfront dock. The towers were delivered to Oswego by the tug Meredith Ashton of Ashton Marine, where they are being staged with other components for a renewable energy project site in upstate New York.

The Port of Monroe was designated as part of the Marine Highway Route M-90 in 2016 by the U.S. Maritime Administration. This project is just one example of how the Port and its stakeholders are working to expand the use of America’s navigable waterways.


Check out our favorite photos:



Watch highlights of the project below:



Two receive Mariner of the Year awards at Sault Ste. Marie ceremony

Paul LaMarre Jr. (left), Capt. John Wellington, president of Soo Historic Sites (Valley Camp), and Kevin E. Sprague. Roger LeLievre photo

SAULT STE. MARIE, MI – Two men with strong ties to the Great Lakes maritime industry were honored at a Mariner of the Year awards dinner Friday night in Sault Ste. Marie.

In opening remarks, James H.I. Weakley, president of the sponsoring Lake Carriers Association, said the event was meant to turn “Great Lakes heroes into Great Lakes legends.”

Honored were Kevin E. Sprague and Paul LaMarre Jr. Sprague served as the Soo Area Engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers until his recent retirement. He not only oversaw the daily operations of the Soo Locks, he managed a badly-needed asset renewal project and saw the beginning of new lock construction.

Sprague began his federal career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, Soo Area Office in 1992 as a member of the St. Marys River branch, performing navigation channel maintenance. In 2000 he became the Chief of the Lock Operations Branch and eventually Chief of Lock Maintenance and Lock Operations. In 2010, he was selected as Soo Area Engineer. He spent his entire federal career in support of the Great Lakes shipping industry.

As Area Engineer he was responsible for the most important navigation project in the Great Lakes and Soo Locks. He was also responsible for federal hydropower facilities and was the onsite representative for the International Joint Commission’s Lake Superior Board of Control. His effort in support of the economic study for construction of a new lock at the Soo and telling its story was crucial for its subsequent funding. He retired from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2022, after a 30-year career at the Soo Locks.

Paul LaMarre Jr. comes from a family of Great Lakes sailors. He is a highly talented maritime artist, honored Great Lakes maritime historian and licensed tugboat captain. With more than 45 years of Great Lakes tugboat experience, he works for Detroit-based Gaelic Tugboat Co. and captains the passenger vessel Diamond Jack.

Mr. LaMarre has dedicated his life to the Great Lakes maritime industry past, present, and future. Following in the footsteps of his great uncles Frank and William Hoffman, both masters of Great Lakes freighters in the early 1900s, he has touched every aspect of the Great Lakes maritime trade and is highly regarded as an industry leader and historian.

His career began at the University of Detroit as an understudy to famed Great Lakes marine artist Father Edward J. Dowling where he learned the principles of painting Great Lakes vessels in watercolor. His artistic talents would open the door to many industry friendships, the most important being that of Capt. William A. Hoey, who would introduce him to a career as the corporate treasurer of the Gaelic Tugboat Co. & Diamond Jacks River Tours. Working for Gaelic Tugboat Co. for over 45 years (1978 to present), he has also served as longtime captain of d1e MN Diamond Jack.

He was also a founding board member of Lower Lakes Towing Ltd. of Port Dover, ON which now operates one of the largest fleets on the Great Lakes.

In 2001, LaMarre was named Historian the Year by the Marine Historical Society of Detroit.

In 2013, received the International Shipmasters Detroit Lodge #7, Captain Lewis Ludington Award for his years of virtuous service. In 2015, the National Museum of the Great Lakes named LaMarre one of the Masters of Great Lakes Marine Art of the 20th Century as he has been the “industry’s artist” for over 50 years, completing commissioned works for nearly every Great Lakes fleet.

LaMarre has also inspired the next generation of Great Lakes leadership as his son Paul C. LaMarre III is a prominent industry advocate, port director and tug captain.

Plaques honoring both men will be installed in the Capt. John Wellington Marine Hall of Fame aboard the museum ship Valley Camp. The Great Lakes Hall of Fame is dedicated to the memory of those explorers, inventors, shipbuilders, sailors, and countless others who have made a contribution to the exploration and development of the Great lakes through the eras of sail, steam, and present.

Roger LeLievre for


Watch the video commemorating Paul C. LaMarre Jr.’s induction into the Hall of Fame:

Port of Monroe and partners strengthen Great Lakes short sea shipping network

Port of Monroe and partners strengthen Great Lakes short-sea-shipping network

MONROE, MI – The Port of Monroe (Port) recently commissioned a new Manitowoc crawler crane. Its first job was to load approximately 400 tons of special bar quality (SBQ) steel onto Interlake Steamship Company’s M/V Paul R. Tregurtha, the largest ship sailing the Great Lakes.

The crane was purchased with funds through the U.S. Maritime Administration’s Marine Highway program. MARAD designated the Port of Monroe as part of Marine Highway Route M-90 in 2016. As a Marine Highway, the Port and its stakeholders are committed to developing and expanding marine highway service options in the United States to expand the use of America’s navigable waterways.

This latest cargo evolution is a perfect example of how the Port is working with its industry partners and local stakeholders to create new short-sea-shipping opportunities on the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway system.

“Every ton counts. Though small by volume, the enormity of this cargo evolution rivals anything that the Port has done in the last decade,” said Capt. Paul C. LaMarre, Port Director, Port of Monroe. “This trial cargo is the epitome of U. S. flagged, short sea shipping on the Great Lakes.”

The Port’s industrial partner and neighbor Gerdau Special Steel was looking for the most economical way to move SBQ manufactured in Monroe to their grinding ball mill in Duluth, Minnesota. The SBQ is used as a feedstock to manufacture grinding balls used in the mining industry.

The Tregurtha, one of the Port’s most frequent visitors, was identified as the perfect vessel to move the SBQ as it is on a dedicated route between Monroe and the twin ports of Duluth/Superior. The cargo was efficiently transported on an all-marine route, through the Soo Locks, saving at least 13,000 highway miles and 275 driving hours in truck resources on America’s congested roadways.

The port’s diversity will continue to grow through collective stakeholder efforts, a new heavy-lift crane and continued use of congestion-free Great Lakes marine highway routes.

Governor Whitmer Signs Legislation Growing Michigan’s Maritime Economy, Other Legislation

LANSING, Mich. – Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed 15 pieces of legislation, bringing the total number of bipartisan bills signed to 919. The bills she signed today includes legislation to expand Michigan’s commercial maritime ports, growing Michigan’s economy.

“In Michigan, our waters define us, and we every Michigander is committed to protecting lakes—Great and small—for future generations,” said Governor Whitmer. “Today, I am proud to sign bipartisan legislation to grow Michigan’s maritime infrastructure and economy. Getting this done will help us stay focused on growing Michigan’s economy, creating good-paying jobs, and lowering costs. I will work with anyone to protect Michigan’s waters and invest in every region of our great state.”

Maritime and Port Facility Assistance Grant Program Act

Together, Senate Bill 744 and House Bill 5291 establish the Maritime and Port Facility Assistance Grant Program Act, to award grants to owners of port facilities and expand Michigan’s commercial maritime ports, growing Michigan’s economy. The Maritime and Port Facility Assistance Office in the Michigan Department of Transportation will create the Port Facility Improvement Fund to implement and administer the program. Michigan’s ports are an underutilized asset that could contribute to the state’s growing economy if given more investment.

“Our bipartisan bills present a historic opportunity for Michigan to become more competitive with other states by investing in the maritime industry,” said Sen. Stephanie Chang, D – Detroit. “I serve much of the Detroit Riverfront and know that Michigan’s location near the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence Seaway System is a competitive advantage we need to take care of. These bills signed into law by Governor will provide maritime improvement grants to allow ports to make necessary infrastructure upgrades, while also incentivizing port terminals to protect local communities, our water and our air.”

“It has taken nearly a decade of advocacy to reach this monumental accomplishment for the sustainability of Michigan’s Ports and commercial shipping industry,” said Paul LaMarre, Port Director – Port of Monroe. “Through Senator Chang’s leadership and advocacy of Senator Zorn and Representative O’Malley our legislature has shown that the Great Lakes shipping industry merits bipartisan support and is critical to our State’s economic prosperity.

“Governor Whitmer’s memorialization of this legislation is a testament to the many people of the “Great Lakes State” who have championed our cause and begun a new chapter in Michigan’s freshwater legacy,” continued Paul LaMarre, Port Director – Port of Monroe. “As the Chairman of the Governor’s Port Advisory Committee, it is my humble honor to express our sincerest thanks as a committee, port, and industry. I salute the Governor for all she has done to ensure that our State’s ports prosper and continue to serve as vital links to our regions broader transportation network.”

“This legislation is a game changer for Michigan ports and will allow the state to be more competitive in the shift toward greener modes of transporting goods and building a more resilient and innovative supply chain,” said Jonathan C. Kinloch, Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority Chairman. “Our thanks go out to Senators Chang and Schmidt and Representative O’Malley, and of course Governor Whitmer, for their leadership on behalf of marine transportation in Michigan.”

House Bill 5291 was sponsored by Rep. Jack O’Malley, R – Lake Ann, and a copy can be found here.

Senate Bill 744 was sponsored by Sen. Stephanie Chang, D – Detroit, and a copy can be found here.

Read the full release here.

Trade Winds blowing at the Port of Monroe

MONROE, MI: The Port of Monroe (Port) along with port tenant Ventower Industries (Ventower) and terminal operator DRM are working to develop and expand new renewable energy supply chain opportunities during the 2022 shipping season.

The Port and DRM are working to load wind tower sections manufactured in Monroe by Ventower for outbound shipment on US-flagged barges.  The wind towers are being transported to the Port of Oswego, New York where they will be staged with other components for delivery to a project site in upstate New York.

Ventower Industries is the only active wind turbine tower manufacturer in the United States located at a Port. The relationship between the Port and Ventower has been critical in developing these new supply chains. A load of tower sections was loaded aboard a foreign-flagged vessel in 2019 for delivery to a project in South America but this current project is a positive step forward for short-sea-shipping on the Great Lakes.

“The fabrication of utility-scale wind turbine towers is what we do best.  When you combine the skills of our manufacturing team and the capabilities we developed at our Port of Monroe manufacturing facility with a world class marine transportation facility next door, it creates an environment which allows us to serve our customers more effectively and makes our products that much more competitive in the region,” said Gregory Adanin, CEO/President at Ventower.

Ashton Marine Corporation, a Michigan-based tug company, is handling the transportation for the project.

“We are honored to partner with the Port, Ventower and DRM on this renewable energy project,” said Seth Andrie, President of Ashton Marine. “Transporting project cargo for our customers throughout the Great Lakes is one of our specialties.”

In 2016, the U.S. Maritime Administration designated the Port of Monroe as part of the Marine Highway Route M-90. As a Marine Highway, the Port and its stakeholders are committed to developing and expanding marine highway service options in the United States to expand the use of America’s navigable waterways.

“In a single project we have Michigan manufactured renewable energy components, built right here at the Port of Monroe, being transported under the American flag on a designated Marine Highway Route,” said Capt. Paul C. LaMarre III, Port Director at the Port of Monroe. “The Port of Monroe is proud to be at the forefront of domestic cargo diversification which will ultimately benefit the system as a whole.”

The Port recently welcomed a new Manitowoc crawler crane to the port which will be used to load tower sections. Funds to purchase the crane were awarded through the Marine Highway program.

The wind tower project is expected to be completed later this summer.

Port of Monroe, Opportunity Center to receive funding as part of state budget

MONROE, MI – The Port of Monroe, and the Opportunity Center at Arthur Lesow Community Center (ALCC) in Monroe will receive nearly $13 million in funding as part of the bipartisan Fiscal Year 2023 state budget approved Friday by the Michigan Legislature.

The port will receive $5 million for fiscal year 2023, which will go towards construction of a containerized cargo scanning facility. The Opportunity Center is slated to receive $7.8 million in funding, which will go towards facility improvements and continued programming.

“This funding is crucial to an area very significant to Michigan’s economy that is in great need of workers, improvements and enhancements,” State Rep. Joe Bellino said in a statement. “…It’s extraordinary for me to witness such significant enhancements to an area where my family lived when they first came to America in 1895. The Port of Monroe plays a significant role in Michigan’s economy. This much-needed funding will help Monroe continue to hire skilled employees, while improving and enhancing the port for years to come.”

“This funding will help support long-term economic growth and provide high-wage jobs for area workers — with the benefit of helping reduce costs for Michigan businesses and consumers with a more efficient port,” added State Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Onsted. “I was happy to work with Rep. Bellino and Port Director Paul LaMarre to lead the discussion in Lansing to secure this key funding to support critical improvements at the Port of Monroe and help them better compete with ports in other Great Lakes states.”

The Port of Monroe, Michigan’s only port on Lake Erie, serves as a major catalyst for Michigan’s multimodal trading industry. A 2017 report found that $59.2 million tons of goods were transported through Michigan’s waterways, valued at $3.23 billion. The economic activity produced by commercial ports amounted to just over $4 million, backing nearly 26,000 jobs and raising $763 million in federal, state, and local tax revenue.

“The state of Michigan’s investment of $5 million will pay dividends and allow the port to leverage significant federal investment while ensuring that our community is at the epicenter of Michigan’s intermodal transportation network,” LaMarre said. “Rep. Bellino and Sen. Zorn have been unrelenting in their commitment to the port, from the dock to the deck plates. They have been our champions in the state Legislature for which we are eternally grateful.”

Monroe Evening News

Peters Tours of Port of Monroe with Acting CBP Commissioner and Port Leaders


MONROE, MI – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, today toured the Port of Monroe with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials, including Acting Commissioner Troy Miller, and Port of Monroe leaders to assess current operations and discuss resolving ongoing cargo clearance challenges the port faces. In recent years, the Port of Monroe has been restricted by CBP’s Detroit Field Office from accepting international break bulk cargo and prohibited the port from accepting international maritime containers, unless the port invested in significant and costly screening technology and infrastructure upgrades. Other Great Lakes ports have reported not being subjected to the same restrictions, which undermines Michigan’s economic competitiveness. As Chairman of the Committee that oversees CBP, Peters has long pressed CBP for answers on why there are these unequal requirements, and advocated for the Port of Monroe to be held to the same standards as other ports in the region.


“I appreciated today’s opportunity to show Acting Commissioner Miller and other Customs and Border Protection officials how the Port of Monroe is working to deliver critical products to families and businesses across Michigan and the Great Lakes region. We were able to see firsthand how Director Paul LaMarre and his leadership team are investing in stronger security screening and infrastructure so they can expand operations,” said Senator Peters. “Acting Commissioner Miller and I discussed how we can work together to resolve longstanding issues, that limit Michigan’s economic competitiveness and raise questions about whether these screening rules are truly effective and based on risk. We also discussed the economic engine of the Great Lakes and how expanded cargo services could increase economic activity for the region and the nation. I’ll continue fighting to ensure Michigan’s ports are treated fairly and have the resources necessary to ensure our state can continue to serve as a hub for international commerce.”


“The unrelenting advocacy of Senator Peters and the support of his legislative team has served as the fuel propelling the Port of Monroe to reach its potential as Michigan’s first maritime container terminal. The Senator’s deckplates leadership has never been more apparent than during this visit,” said Paul LaMarre, Director of the Port of Monroe. “Acting Commissioner Miller’s presence in our community and footsteps upon our dock represent USCBP’s commitment to ensure that the Port of Monroe, and all Michigan Ports, will be open for business as we strive to sustain the ‘Great Lakes State’s’ economic vitality during this challenging time. Following this meeting it is imperative that Michigan’s CBP leadership finds ways to ensure that Michigan’s Ports receive equitable allocations of personnel, tools, and technology as Senator Peters’ has continually legislated for their enhanced resources.”


During the visit Peters, Miller and other CBP officials met with the Port of Monroe’s leadership team to discuss the ongoing challenges and what additional resources are required to ensure that incoming cargo is safe and secure, assure reliable and consistent service, boost operations, and expand their capabilities to provide increased cargo services throughout the Great Lakes region. They also toured the Port’s existing facilities and discussed planned upgrades to ensure the Port can handle additional types of cargo.


In his role on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Peters has fought to support Michigan’s ports, especially the Port of Monroe, and ensure they receive fair treatment. He recently announced the Port of Monroe received a federal grant to help upgrade cargo screening infrastructure. A bipartisan measure coauthored by Peters was signed into law requiring federal officials to assess all ports of entry, including finding ways to reduce wait times for passengers and cargo at the border. Peters has repeatedly pressed CBP on why the Port of Monroe is being held to standards that are not applied to other ports in the region. Peters recently published an op-ed, outlining the importance of making sure Michigan’s economic competitiveness is not being undercut by unfair policies or practices. Peters also helped secure a $1.1 million federal grant for the Port of Monroe to expand its maritime commerce operations. In 2019, Peters authored legislation to authorize CBP to hire 600 additional CBP Officers each year until needs identified in the workload staffing model are met.



State Lawmakers Champion Trade at Ports

Since 2016, The U.S. Customs and Border Protection has imposed restrictions on Michigan’s ports, adversely impacting the state’s economy and trade practices. To bounce back from the effects of COVID-19 and increase trade at the Port of Monroe, Michigan’s state senators have adopted a resolution calling for equitable treatment among ports that handle imported and exported cargo. State Senator Stephanie Chang stated, “As our economy works to rebound from the COVID019 pandemic, this harmful restriction must be removed, and our ports ought to be treated like others in the nation.”

This resolution allows more ships to pass through the Port of Monroe, thus bolstering the job market, lowering costs for local Michigan business and consumers and repositioning the port as a fierce competitor in the industry. Its benefits also reach beyond just the Port of Monroe, brining opportunities for other ports in Southeast Michigan and throughout the Great Lakes State, ensuring Michigan stays a hub for international commerce.

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