For the second year in a row, the U.S. House Energy & Water Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), has approved a $1 billion draw from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.
The money is for maintaining America’s deep-draft navigation channels and harbors and is as part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ fiscal 2014 funding bill. If passed by the Senate and enacted into law, this would be the largest regular annual appropriation for navigation maintenance.
A June 17 press release on the bill by the House Appropriations Committee stated that, in prioritizing funding, the subcommittee chose to “invest in critical infrastructure projects to protect lives and property and support economic growth.”
“While still less than the need for full use of the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT), this funding amount in a tightly constrained budget is a positive step toward ensuring that the HMT is fully utilized to maintain our nation’s federal navigation channels at their constructed dimensions,” said AAPA President and CEO Kurt Nagle. “We greatly appreciate the leadership of Chairman Frelinghuysen and the subcommittee for recognizing this important national priority.”
The $1 billion appropriation approved by the subcommittee is $110 million more than the Administration requested in its fiscal 2014 budget earlier this year. However, the annual revenue collected from the HMT for maintenance dredging is approximately $1.6 billion.
For many years, AAPA has urged Congress to utilize 100 percent of the Harbor Maintenance Tax for its intended purposes rather than allow the money to build up in the already bloated Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which is growing at a rate of about $1 billion per year and is estimated will contain more than $9 billion by the end of fiscal 2014. Last month, AAPA sent letters to lawmakers in both the House and Senate, urging them to guarantee full utilization of HMT revenues to achieve efficient 21st century freight movement.
On April 16, AAPA’s U.S. Delegation Chairman Adolph Ojard, who is executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority in Minnesota, testified before the House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, urging full utilization of the annual Harbor Maintenance Tax collection. He noted that low appropriations have resulted in a navigation system in which channels are not being maintained to their constructed depths and widths despite adequate taxes being collected.
In January, AAPA’s Mr. Nagle submitted testimony to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works about the critical importance to the health of the port industry and the nation’s economy to maintain America’s federal channels at their constructed dimensions. In that testimony, he stated the federal government has a unique Constitutional responsibility to maintain and improve the infrastructure that enables the flow of commerce. He went on to say that much of the infrastructure in and around our nation’s seaports has long been neglected, affecting ports’ ability to move cargo, which hurts U.S. businesses, workers and the national economy.