Center for American Progress

Michigan Lake Erie Renewable Energy Resilience Project

Michigan Lake Erie Renewable Energy Resilience Project

This grant helps fund a project to modernize and expand Port Monroe’s infrastructure to connect Michigan to Lake Erie and the rest of the Great Lakes.

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A vessel passes by the shore of Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota, on April 13, 2023. (Getty/Stephen Maturen)
  • Project name: Lake Erie Renewable Energy Resilience Project

  • Program: Port Infrastructure Development Program Grants

  • Law: Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

  • Recipient: Port of Monroe

  • Investment amount: $11,051,586

  • City: Monroe

  • State: Michigan

  • Congressional district: 5

  • Construction start date: 2024

This profile is part of a project that finds and tracks the public and private sector investments generated or supported by three of the Biden administration’s economic laws. These laws make investments in the American people, helping to grow the middle class, lowering the cost of living, and setting up America to better compete and cooperate in the world. Pulling directly from several sources, this catalog provides users with publicly available information such as the number of jobs created, workforce training partnerships, and storytellers benefiting from particular projects, among other detailed information. The profile below expands on the economic, practical, and climate impacts of just one of the 35,000 investments that can be found in the Biden Administration Investment Tracker. It may be updated to account for future project developments.

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$11 million from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—also known as the bipartisan infrastructure law—will expand and strengthen the Port of Monroe to promote connectivity in trade and manufacturing on the Great Lakes. Port Monroe has become a major distributional hub for wind energy manufacturing, and the project will support transportation of wind energy components at the port. The grant will support four different components to make the port safer for industry: riverfront work, turning basin work, maritime readiness slip construction, and shore power infrastructure.

Historical context

The Port of Monroe is Michigan’s only port on Lake Erie, and it plays an increasingly crucial role in supporting manufacturing, trade, and transportation in the Great Lakes region. However, it has degraded significantly in recent years:

  • Port Monroe is home to Ventower Industries, which is the only wind turbine tower manufacturer in the United States located at a port. The presence of this manufacturer has led to the port becoming a major regional distribution hub for wind energy components. The port also houses a coal-fired power plant that works to recycle coal combustion residuals into building and concrete material. Additionally, the port is a hub for coiled steel products used by the manufacturing, construction, and housing industries, and is able to transport these coils much more efficiently and environmentally than trucks. – Port Infrastructure Development Program, May 16, 2022
  • “The current degradation of the Turning Basin wharf has led to failing concrete capping, bollard loss due to concrete instability, reduced vessel accessibility, and increased risk of personal injury to dockworker and mariners alike. … The wharf is further limited due to a seawall failure that has encroached into the navigable waterway which limits safe navigation and prohibits valuable mooring for lay-by maintenance as well as limits the port’s ability to serve as a safe harbor for weather restricted vessels. The sheet-piling failure has caused water and soil interface which has led to worsening silting in the wharf, reduced shoreside laydown area, and environmental concerns related to contaminated soils in the area.” – Port Infrastructure Development Program, May 16, 2022
  • The current setup of the port, in which most vessel operations are constrained to the port’s riverfront dock does not allow for diverse cargo handling operations and increases risk of port closures or delays caused by climate change-related weather events or structural failures. – Port Infrastructure Development Program, May 16, 2022

Project summary

The award will fund a four-part rehabilitation and expansion of Port Monroe’s infrastructure:

  • “The award will go toward the port’s Lake Erie Renewable Energy Resilience Project, funding four components: riverfront work, turning basin work, maritime readiness slip construction and shore power infrastructure. 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 cargoes, and reinforcing shoreline stabilization. Turning Basin work will include rehabilitating the concrete dock cap, bollard and fender installation, and replacing roughly 390 feet of failed sheet pile. Small Boat ‘Maritime Readiness Slip’ construction will include demolishing and rehabilitating an existing small boat slip to be used by harbor assist vessels. Shore Power infrastructure will include removing existing overhead lines and providing shore power to the riverfront wharves.” – The Monroe News, October 31, 2022

Outcomes, improvements, and practical impact

Expanding and strengthening the infrastructure of Port Monroe will increase vessel and cargo-handling capacity; improve efficiency of managing bulk materials; add shore power to reduce vehicle and vessel idling; increase the port’s responsiveness against climate change-related weather events; and support transportation of wind energy components at the port—all of which will increase the competitiveness of the port: 

  • Making these improvements to Port Monroe will promote the viability of short-sea shipping in the United States, which will allow the country to move away from reliance on highway and railway systems: “There is an emerging market opportunity to fit out domestic vessels with frames to carry wind towers as back hauls to other US Great Lakes ports. … This short sea shipping project increases the competitiveness of U.S. based wind turbine tower manufacturing, supports the US-flagged fleet, and significantly enhances the renewable energy transportation network.” – Port Infrastructure Development Program, May 16, 2022
  • These improvements will also support Michigan’s State Long-Range Transportation Plan by modernizing the transportation system to improve mobility and accessibility; improving the efficiency, effectiveness, and coordination of Michigan’s transportation system; improving the safety and security of Michigan’s transportation system; and preserving past investments made in Port Monroe. – Port Infrastructure Development Program, May 16, 2022
  • “This Project addresses Port competitiveness by increasing available berthing capacity and creating cargo specific laydown areas which increases overall operational capacity.” – Port Infrastructure Development Program, May 16, 2022

Climate impact 

Updates to Port Monroe will contribute to addressing climate change by enabling transportation of alternative energy project components and doing so in a way that is environmentally friendly:

  • “The Port contributes to Climate Change reductions by enabling successful transportation evolutions of alternative energy projects components originating from the Port. As the only port in the United States with an operating wind tower manufacturer and as a major distribution hub for large components used in regional wind projects, providing economical, reliable, and efficient. This project also addresses climate change by strengthening the Port’s role in the renewable energy supply chain by ensuring wind energy components are transported using the most efficient and environmentally friendly mode of transportation, via vessel.” – Port Infrastructure Development Program, May 16, 2022
  • The project will have the following impacts on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway System, with the value of avoided emissions totaling $3,556,611: Reduction in truck fuel consumption of $6,977,172; reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by 59,720 megatons (MT) reduction in PM2.5 emissions by 2 MT; reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions by 103 MT; and reduction in sulfur oxide emissions by 1 MT. – Port Infrastructure Development Program, May 16, 2022
  • “The Port of Monroe has long handled coal shipments for the DTE-Monroe power plant. It also handles petroleum products and rock and aggregate.” – Michigan Public Radio, October 31, 2022

Racial equity and justice impact

As they are currently planned, the updates to Port Monroe will improve living conditions for nearby environmental justice communities and have the potential to advance racial economic equity through union jobs:

  • “The Environmental Justice and Racial Equity Impact Analysis for this Project indicates the completed Project will improve air, noise, and water quality for adjacent EJ neighborhoods. At this point of the team’s analysis, it is believed that the same EJ population will not be disproportionately negatively impacted by construction of the Project.” – Port Infrastructure Development Program, May 16, 2022
  • “The Port will review the scope of work for the Project and leverage its existing relationship with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to identify Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) in the State of Michigan and determine which businesses have the capacity to participate in the federally funded contracted work at the Port.” – Port Infrastructure Development Program, May 16, 2022

Economic impact

Based on past economic studies, these renovations to Port Monroe will generate a significant economic activity in Michigan, both through job creation and tax income:

  • “In 2017 the Port of Monroe and maritime commerce supported 1,659 jobs; $96 million in economic activity; $121.1 million in personal income and local consumption expenditures; [and] $38.5 million in federal and state tax revenue.” – Port of Monroe press release, September 5, 2018
  • “In 2017, the direct business revenue received by the firms directly dependent upon the cargo handled at the marine terminals located at the Port was $28.3 million.” – Port Infrastructure Development Program, May 16, 2022

Official supporting statements

  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI): “As a leading commercial port on the Great Lakes, the Port of Monroe is a critical link in the U.S. domestic and international trade supply chain. This project will have a significant impact on Monroe County by growing existing business in wind energy shipments and facilitate the safe, economical, and environmentally conscious distribution of these components to U.S. ports while supporting local and regional manufacturing jobs.” – Port Infrastructure Development Program, May 16, 2022
  • U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI): “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. … 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.” – The Monroe News, October 31, 2022
  • State Rep. Joe Bellino (R-MI): “This funding is crucial to an area very significant to Michigan’s economy that is in great need of workers, improvements and enhancements. … 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.” – Port of Monroe press release, September 5, 2018
  • State Sen. Dale Zorn (R-MI): “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. … 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.” – Port of Monroe press release, July 13, 2022

Selected clips

  • “Port of Monroe receives $11M in funding from federal government” – The Monroe News, October 31, 2022

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