The U.S. Coast Guard has begun taking public comments on a proposal to allow river barges to call at the port of Muskegon.
The Michigan Agri-Business Association is promoting the idea, saying it would boost economic development. President Jim Byrum says it would provide new infrastructure to market the state's farm products.
Federal regulations put the Coast Guard in charge of setting commercial vessel routes in the Great Lakes and some other waterways. River barges operate mostly on the Mississippi River and its tributaries. The Michigan group wants them to have access to Lake Michigan between Chicago and Muskegon.
A decision would move up the Coast Guard chain of command from the Milwaukee office to the 9th District headquarters in Cleveland and eventually to Washington, D.C.