- Associated Press - Thursday, June 5, 2014

MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) - The U.S. Coast Guard has begun taking public comments on a proposal to allow river barge traffic on eastern Lake Michigan as far north as Muskegon.

Business groups and elected officials in Michigan are pushing the idea in hopes of boosting the Muskegon port and bringing more economic development to the area.

Jim Byrum of the Michigan Agri-Business Association says expanding water transportation would be especially helpful in getting Michigan crops to market.

The group says shipping, scrap and metal, aggregates and electric utilities would be among other industries that would benefit.

The Coast Guard can establish commercial routes on certain water bodies, including the Great Lakes. A similar provision is in place for the western shore of Lake Michigan reaching to Milwaukee.

Comments can be submitted until Aug. 25.

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