The Senate yesterday approved a resolution calling on Congress to address the chronic backlog of harbor maintenance projects, embracing the approach of legislation introduced by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.
The “sense of the Senate” resolution is included in the surface transportation bill that the Senate approved today. The measure calls for Congress to appropriate the full amount of funds available in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund on harbor maintenance projects. In 2011, Levin and a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the Harbor Maintenance Act, which would require the same approach.
“I am pleased that the Senate has now gone on record supporting the full use of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for its intended purposes: to operate and maintain our federal navigation channels, including the 69 federal harbors and channels in Michigan,” Levin said. “While I will continue to work to strengthen this provision so that it more closely mirrors the Harbor Maintenance Act, I believe including this resolution in the transportation bill is an important first step towards addressing this issue legislatively in support of our maritime infrastructure.”
While the resolution approved today does not have full legislative effect, it puts the Senate on the record as supporting the goals of the Harbor Maintenance Act.
The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund contains revenue from the Harbor Maintenance Tax, which is assessed on users of the nation’s harbors and waterways. The trust fund is intended to pay for maintenance of those waterways, but for several years, Congress has failed to appropriate the full amount available, leaving an unspent balance of more than $6 billion.
Meanwhile, a massive backlog of harbor maintenance projects has hampered operations in the nation’s ports. The problem is especially acute in the Great Lakes, where the Corps estimates it needs to dredge more than 18 million cubic yards of material from harbors to ensure safe navigation.
The transportation bill also includes a Levin-authored amendment to help crack down on offshore tax dodging. The Senate added that measure to the bill last week.
Dredging Today Staff, March 15, 2012;