Friday, February 1, 2013

Senate EPW Hearing On Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund

Jan 31: The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, Chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), with Ranking Member David Vitter (R-LA), held a hearing entitled, "The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and the Need to Invest in the Nation's Ports." Witnesses included: Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works); and representatives from Port of Los Angeles; Associated Branch Pilots; Alabama State Port Authority; the American Society of Civil Engineers' Coasts, Oceans, Ports and Rivers Institute.
    In an opening statement, Senator Boxer introduced Sen. Vitter as the new Ranking Member and said they were working together on legislation for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. She said, "The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund is the primary source of Federal investment to maintain America's ports. The Trust Fund is financed through a fee on the value of cargo imported through coastal and Great Lakes ports. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, if funding continues at current levels, by 2040 the U.S. will face a shortfall of nearly $28 billion to meet the dredging needs of the nation's ports. As we will hear from our witnesses today, this funding gap can have significant economic consequences.

    "Increasing investment in ports and reforming the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund will be critical components of the next Water Resources Development Act – known as WRDA. Senator Vitter and I have already begun working together on this vital legislation which supports water resources infrastructure nationwide. WRDA authorizes the projects and programs of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and provides many benefits to the American people -- including expanding and maintaining navigation routes for commerce."
    She continued saying, "Significant challenges remain in working to ensure that revenues collected in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund are fully expended, including identification of necessary offsets. I look forward to collaborating with all of my colleagues as we look for creative solutions to this challenging issue. In addition, we must also look at ways to ensure that ports which collect the most Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund revenues receive an equitable share of Federal investment. Currently, some of these ports receive only a fraction of the funds that users of their ports pay into the Trust Fund. I have proposed a provision for the next WRDA bill that would increase equity for ports nationwide. The provision would allow certain ports to use harbor maintenance funds for limited additional uses after other traditional operation and maintenance needs are met. This would be an important step forward in ensuring our nation's most essential ports receive an equitable share of harbor maintenance revenues.
    The Great Lakes Governors have applauded the recent introduction of legislation that would permanently fix the nation's dysfunctional funding program to maintain ports and harbors [See WIMS 1/25/13]. Specifically, the Governors pledged their support for the Realize America's Maritime Promise (RAMP) Act, H.R. 335, and commended the sponsors for their leadership in introducing this bill. The bill was introduced by Rep. Charles Boustany, Jr. (R-LA) and has 47 cosponsors.
    Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R), Co-Chair of the Council of Great Lakes Governors (CGLG) said, "I applaud the Congressmen for working to enact what is really a simple solution to a major problem—actually spending funds already collected for the purpose of harbor maintenance on harbor maintenance. This solution is critical for our region's ports and harbors, and for the national economy." Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (D), Co-Chair said, "Congress must act to provide relief to our harbors. Drought and low water levels have created a crisis that is only compounded by the failure to spend federal funds that have already been collected and set aside for just this purpose." 

    Access the hearing website and link to all testimony and a webcast (click here). Access legislative details for HR.335 (click here). [#GLakes/Harbors] 
Access subscription information (click here)
Want to know more about WIMS? Check out our LinkedIn company website (click here).
33 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals

No comments: