U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) yesterday announced his support for a plan to fund critical operations and maintenance of the nationâ€™s harbors, which could help direct unspent funds to the ports of Philadelphia and Erie to protect the jobs they support.
Announcing his support for the bipartisan Harbor Maintenance Act, Senator Casey noted the large impact on jobs and the economy that Pennsylvaniaâ€™s ports provide. The Port of Philadelphia supports about 8,100 direct jobs and about 35,000 indirect jobs, and the Port of Erie supports nearly 1,000 jobs.
â€śThe ports of Philadelphia and Erie support tens of thousands of jobs, so keeping them operational is an economic priority,â€ť said Senator Casey. â€śThis bill will help fix a problem that prevents adequate funding of our ports, which will protect the jobs and economic benefit our ports provide Pennsylvania.â€ť
The Harbor Maintenance Act would require that money in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund be used for maintenance and operations of federal ports, instead of being redirected to other uses.
Currently, a fee on imported cargo is sent to the Treasury Department, where it often sits unused. The Harbor Maintenance Act would ensure these funds are solely directed for use by the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMT).
The HMT was created in 1986 to fund operations and maintenance of federal ports and harbors. Due to inadequate appropriations from the HMT, navigation channels are getting narrower and shallower due to sediment accumulation. Inadequately maintained harbors are becoming like blocked arteries, grounding numerous cargo ships and stalling economic progress. The Army Corps of Engineers estimates that the nationâ€™s 59 busiest ports are available less than 35 percent of the time because they are inadequately maintained.
Dredging Today Staff, June 1, 2012; Image: casey