After approval of a nearly $31.25 billion funding bill that includes $5.29 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works program, American Association of Port Authorities President/CEO Kurt Nagle praised the Senate Appropriations Committee and its chairman, Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), noting that "the stage is set for the Corps to get a budget that will enable it to better meet the nation’s water resources needs."
Nagle also applauded Energy & Water Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) for his work in providing the leadership for developing and moving the bill through the subcommittee mark-up process and sponsoring the bill in full committee.
"The Senate Committee’s approval today of $5.29 billion for the Corps’ FY’06 Civil Works program is a very positive signal that navigation projects at our nation’s seaports will get more of the funds they critically need to start, complete and/or maintain waterways that are crucial to our nation’s economy," said Nagle. "The Administration’s Civil Works budget recommendation this year was a paltry $4.513 billion, which would have been 4 percent less than last year’s appropriation. AAPA and our member ports were deeply concerned that, had the Administration’s proposed budget been adopted, the channels and harbors that ships depend on for moving people and freight would be severely compromised."
Access to our nation’s ports and waterways ensure jobs for nearly 5 million people who work in the U.S. marine transportation industry. Waterborne commerce, which is dependent on accessible ports, harbors and channels, contributes more than $729 billion annually to U.S. international trade.
AAPA immediately raised concerns when the Administration’s FY’06 budget was first announced. At a news briefing in February, Nagle said that under-funding the Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works program would create major challenges for public ports, ocean carriers and their customers to meet the expectations of the businesses and communities they serve, both from a safety and an economic perspective. He noted that each year that new dredging projects are delayed and existing projects go unfinished, "it puts our nation at a competitive disadvantage to export its products overseas and causes the cost of waterborne imports to go up."
AAPA has urged Congress to appropriate at least $5.6 billion for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works program for FY’06. Specifically, AAPA has requested appropriations of $735 million for deep-draft navigation operations and maintenance (O&M), at least $500 million for deep-draft construction, and $10 million for new project studies. That compares with the Administration’s request of $607 million for harbor and channel O&M, $260 million for continuing construction and $7 million for studies.