U.S. Congressmen Charles W. Boustany, Jr., MD (R-Southwest Louisiana) and Joe Courtney (D-Connecticut) today encouraged Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen to use all funds collected by the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) for FY 2012 dredging of the nation’s ports, harbors and waterways.
Maintenance dredging is required to maintain authorized depth and width to facilitate vessel navigation. The Harbor Maintenance Tax and Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) were established in 1986 to specifically fund operations and maintenance of federal ports and harbors. The HMT is charged against the value of imports and domestic cargo arriving at U.S. ports that have federally maintained harbors and channels and deposited into the HMTF.
In a letter to Budget Committee Leadership, Boustany and Courtney explained the necessity of securing these funds for their intended purpose. “Today, the HMTF has a balance of approximately $5.6 billion; yet this funding is not being used to address the backlog of necessary maintenance dredging needed to sustain our vital infrastructure. To not maintain these harbors and ports impacts regional and national commerce, reduces our economic competitiveness, and increases the risk of vessel groundings, collisions, and pollution incidents.” Boustany and Courtney said in the letter. “The Administration’s current FY 2012 budget allocates only half of the projected $1.5 billion dollars projected in HMT collections.” The letter stressed the importance of allocating all funds collected by the HMT only for dredging projects.
In addition to the letter, which requests a short-term fix to the funding of dredging, Boustany and Courtney introduced the Realize America’s Maritime Promise (RAMP) Act in January. The bill will permanently ensure all funds collected by the HMT are used for their intended purpose. “Fully maintained harbors and ports will enhance our ability to trade with other countries and greatly enhance our ability to ship Louisiana products around the globe,” Boustany said. “At a time when residents along the Gulf Coast are still reeling from the moratorium and high unemployment, enhancing our ports will provide jobs and get the region’s economy up and running again.”
“Last year, my office secured long-overdue dredging in the towns of Clinton and Westbrook,” said Rep. Courtney. “The immediate economic benefit those communities felt could easily be replicated across the country by allocating full funding for dredging in the 2012 budget. In Connecticut today, more than $113 million in dredging is necessary, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. This funding would help meet that need and ensure that our communities get the help they need to spur job growth and economic recovery.”
The RAMP Act currently has wide bipartisan support with 65 co-sponsors, including most of the Louisiana delegation.
Source: Boustany, March 31, 2011