Muskegon port

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) - Supporters of allowing cargo barges to travel on Lake Michigan as far north as Muskegon say they've lined up significant backing from members of the state legislature.

The Michigan Agri-Business Association says 86 House members and eight senators have signed letters favoring the idea.

Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright says allowing barges to call at ports in Muskegon and elsewhere along the lake's eastern shore would give those areas a better shot at economic growth opportunities. Sen. Goeff Hansen says it would lead to infrastructure improvements.

USDA / Creative Commons

The Michigan Agri-Business Association wants to open the Port of Muskegon to river barge traffic.

The large, flat-bottomed boats already carry huge shipments from New Orleans up the Mississippi River to ports in Milwaukee and Indiana.

The Michigan Agri-Business Association wants the U.S. Coast Guard to allow the ships to come to Muskegon’s deep water port too.

user BigMikeSndTech / Flickr

The Muskegon port could be expanded to accommodate for larger cargo. The port is one of the only naturally occurring deep water ports, which makes it ideal for bigger ships.

The port could be used to transport agricultural fertilizers and other goods like wind turbines, scrap metals and coal.