USA: Package of Bills Introduced in Senate, House of Representatives

A package of bills has been introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives that will implement major recommendations of a legislative commission which spent nearly three years studying the economic growth that could result from further development and marketing of Rhode Island’s ports.

Five bills each were submitted in the two legislative chambers on Thursday, stemming from the Tuesday release of the legislative commission’s final report. That report cited that development of port infrastructure and growth of maritime industries would result in more than 1,000 new jobs, $70 million in personal income, $127 million in business revenue and $8.1 million in new state and local tax revenues in coming years.

In presenting the final report and suggested legislation, Sen. William A. Walaska (D-Dist. 30, Warwick), who co-chaired the commission since its inception, said “It is our goal to work in partnership with the Chafee administration to grow maritime employment opportunities as well as promote all of Rhode Island’s waterfront assets in a way that will increase job opportunities for the thousands of men and women now unemployed or underemployed in this tough economy.”

Said Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown), commission co-chair, “If we work together to market our ports as outstanding locations close to major population areas and target the industries that are poised for growth, our ports have the potential to become much greater transport hubs that employ many more Rhode Islanders.”

The commission’s final report listed several major findings and recommendations, five of which will require action by the General Assembly:

Legislation to create the Rhode Island Port Marketing Collaborative of 2012. The role of the RIPMC will be to create a place where key stakeholders (such as leadership at port facilities, economic development agencies, government entities) will collaborate on marketing strategy and coordinate development opportunities. It will also work to develop and maintain a strategic plan for Rhode Island’s ports, facilities and maritime trade, focused on job creation. With each of the stakeholders in one location, new financing options can be explored as well as ways to market Rhode Island port facilities collectively on a national and international level.

The bill is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. William A. Walaska (D-Dist. 30, Warwick), who co-chaired the study commission, and in the House by Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown), commission co-chair.

Resolution petitioning the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) to officially include the ports of Rhode Island as “official participating destination ports” on the Marine Highway Corridor. The 11 corridors identify routes where water transportation presents an opportunity to offer relief from land traffic congestion, excessive air emissions and other environmental concerns and challenges. Designation of ports is part of the current planning and implementation of the Marine Highway Shipping Program.

The resolution was introduced by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, New Shoreham, South Kingstown) and Rep. Donald J. Lally Jr. (D-Dist. 33, Narragansett, North Kingstown, South Kingstown).

Resolution petitioning Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation to become actively involved as the U.S. Department of Transportation works toward implementation of the Marine Highway Shipping Program to ensure that the U.S. Maritime Administration designates the ports of Davisville and Providence as participants.

House sponsor of the resolution is Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, Narragansett, South Kingstown); the Senate sponsor is Sen. James C. Sheehan (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown).

Resolution in support of $7.5 million for maintenance dredging at Davisville. The commission has recommended not using federal government funding for the Davisville dredging projects, because of a potential 10-year wait for the project to get underway and because using federal funds would trigger a federal Harbor Maintenance Tax that would be detrimental to businesses and potential port users. The fact that Davisville is not subject to the tax is a major competitive advantage. The resolution supports the issuance of state revenue bonds to dredge the channel. The resolution calls for approval of a Kushner Public Corporation Debt Management Act funding request for revenue bonds by the Quonset Davisville Management Corporation through the RI Economic Development Corporation.

The resolution was introduced by Rep. Helio Melo (D-Dist. 64, East Providence), chairman of the House Committee on Finance, and by Sen. Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence).

Resolution requesting a CRMC detailed study on CAD cells for future permitting and planning purposes. The resolution calls for the Coastal Resources Management Corporation to provide a detailed analysis of the size, scale, scope and funding needed to complete the permitting process for and the future construction of replacement CAD (contained area disposal) cells, where the state deposits dredged material. An area along the Providence river that contains CAD cells is already 75 percent filled. The resolution is calling for the analysis now to avoid jeopardizing the long-term economic health of the state’s maritime industry.

The resolution is sponsored in the House by Rep. Lawrence W. Ehrhardt (R-Dist. 32, North Kingstown) and in the Senate by Sen. David E. Bates (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol).

The commission’s final report listed several other recommendations that do not require legislative action. Among them are:

– The commission recommends that the governor appoint a Port Economic Policy Ombudsperson as the state’s lead person responsible for oversight of the interagency implementation of the economic development opportunities outlined in the final report and to give port growth and development the kind of attention it has not had in many years. The commission recommends that the position and funding should come from the governor’s current budget.

– The newly created Ombudsperson would be expected to work collaboratively with the Rhode Island Port Marketing Collaborative to coordinate the actions necessary to study and eventually develop a barge feeder operation so that early adapter competitive advantages occur in Rhode Island.

– The commission recommends that the governor’s office explore potential public/private partnership opportunities for the port facilities at Davisville and Quonset Point, utilizing a fully transparent RFP process similar to what has been done in Maryland.

– The commission recommends that a timetable and appropriate capital budget provisions be made for future maintenance dredging needs to maintain the Providence River’s authorized depth.

– The commission proposes that the statewide planning office work with the RI Bays, Rivers and Watersheds Coordination Team to uniformly adopt and implement the CRMC’s Type VI Waters industrial waterfront protections, to protect existing maritime industry occurring along the state’s waters.

Commenting on the commission’s final report and recommendations, including the proposed legislation, Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed said that “These economic development efforts are being extended to the state’s ports and related marine enterprises so that the Ocean State can seize upon the tremendous opportunities in maritime job development.” Added Speaker of the House Gordon D. Fox, “We need to build our state’s strengths and one of those is our maritime industries. I am committed to giving the ports the tools they need to compete in this global economy and to create jobs.”


Dredging Today Staff, February 20, 2012