Tuesday | November 25, 2014

Scott and Bipartisan Group of Senators Ask for Proper Use of Harbor Maintenance Funding

Charleston, SC ­- U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) joined a bipartisan group of 22 senators in requesting that the Senate Appropriations Committee set spending levels for harbor maintenance at the amounts authorized in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014. Senator Scott supported the passage of WRRDA earlier this year, and the harbor maintenance funding is utilized to dredge and maintain America's ports, including the ports in Charleston and Georgetown. The Senators wrote, "More than $1.8 billion in annual HMT revenue is being collected specifically to meet the nation's annual authorized harbor maintenance needs for harbors of all sizes. Unfortunately, annual appropriations have been significantly less than annual collections, resulting in harbors and navigation channels getting narrower and shallower due to accumulating sediment, declining dredged material disposal area capacity and deteriorating harbor structures such as breakwaters and jetties due to inadequate funding. Harbors and navigation channels are a vital part of our nation's transportation infrastructure, and the elimination or reduction in their capacity can have significant impacts on local communities and economies as well as the national economy." Also signing the letter were Senators David Vitter (R-LA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Al Franken (D-MN), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bill Nelson (R-FL), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Jim Risch (R-ID), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). The full text of the letter is below, and the letter can be accessed as a PDFhere. November 20, 2014 The Honorable Barbara A. Mikulski Chairwoman Senate Committee on Appropriations S-128, U.S. Capitol Washington, D.C. 20510 The Honorable Richard C. Shelby Ranking Member Senate Committee on Appropriations S-128, U.S. Capitol Washington, D.C. 20510 The Honorable Dianne Feinstein Chairwoman, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development 186 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510 The Honorable Lamar Alexander Ranking Member, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development 186 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510 Dear Chairwoman Mikulski, Ranking Member Shelby, Chairwoman Feinstein, and Ranking Member Alexander: Thank you for your efforts to increase U.S. Army Corps of Engineers civil works program harbor maintenance funding in your annual Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies (E&W) Appropriations Acts. We write to request that when you enter into negotiations with your House counterparts to complete Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) annual appropriations legislation you support a final FY15 harbor maintenance funding level that was authorized under Section 2101(b) of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA 2014). That section established a 10-year path to fully use Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) collections for their intended purpose, with FY15 being the first year. It would be unfortunate if Congress failed to hit the HMT target just seven months after passing this legislation with overwhelming bipartisan support. We also ask that the funding be provided only for authorized harbor maintenance. More than $1.8 billion in annual HMT revenue is being collected specifically to meet the nation's annual authorized harbor maintenance needs for harbors of all sizes. Unfortunately, annual appropriations have been significantly less than annual collections, resulting in harbors and navigation channels getting narrower and shallower due to accumulating sediment, declining dredged material disposal area capacity and deteriorating harbor structures such as breakwaters and jetties due to inadequate funding. Harbors and navigation channels are a vital part of our nation's transportation infrastructure, and the elimination or reduction in their capacity can have significant impacts on local communities and economies as well as the national economy. WRRDA 2014 recognizes the national need to increase use of HMT collections to benefit all navigation projects, high and moderate use, emerging, underserved and Great Lakes ports, along with expanded uses at donor ports. The Army Corps of Engineers has reported that nationwide authorized channel depths are available about half of the time, and then only over half of the channel's width. This drives up the cost of U.S. exports and imports, which threatens U.S. economic growth, and increases the risk of vessel groundings and associated oil spills. Many U.S. exports compete in a very price-sensitive global market where transportation inefficiencies mean losing business to other countries. It is vitally important that the WRRDA HMT commitment be met. While addressing increased funding is difficult, in part because of inadequate Administration funding requests, the United States should not miss opportunities to spur economic growth, improve our global competitiveness and create jobs. We urge you to work with the House to craft a final FY15 E&W Appropriations bill (or title within an omnibus appropriations bill) that meets the FY15 harbor maintenance spending target and allocation provisions under Sections 2101(b) and 2102, respectively, of WRRDA 2014 to maintain the nation's shipping channels, our nation's gateways to the global marketplace. Thank you for your consideration of this request.

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Related Issues:  Transportation