The Rhode Island Senate passed a resolution approving plans of the RI Economic Development Corporation to issue $7.5 million in bonds for maintenance dredging at the Port of Davisville.
Introduced by Sen. William A. Walaska, the resolution officially approves a Kushner Public Corporation Debt Management Act funding request for the bonds. The “Kushner Law” requires legislative oversight of and approval for bonding or other indebtedness incurred by the state’s quasi-public corporations and agencies.
The resolution is one of a package of bills introduced earlier this session following a three-year study by a special legislative commission that focused on the potential economic growth that could result from further development and marketing of the state’s ports.
The resolution formally authorizes the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation in conjunction with its subsidiary, the Quonset Development Corporation, to issue a $7.5-million revenue bond for the dredging project. The bond would be repaid by operating revenues of the EDC subsidiary Quonset Development Corporation and companies that utilize the Davisville port and the piers for maritime business and would not, therefore, involve any taxpayer money.
In proposing the bond issue, the study commission recommended not using federal government funding for the Davisville dredging project to avoid imposition of a federal Harbor Maintenance Tax on port users. The fact that Davisville is not subject to the tax is a major competitive advantage for the port and the state.
“There are two vitally important aspects of approving this dredging project,” said Senator Walaska, who co-chaired the port study commission. “One is that no taxpayer money will be used. Instead, the QDC will fund costs from operating rents and increased dockage and wharfage fees.”
“Secondly, by not using federal government funding, there will be no delay in undertaking the project and there will be no federal Harbor Maintenance Tax imposed on arriving ships, which gives Davisville an enormous competitive advantage over every port up and down the East Coast,” he said.
A spokesperson for the QDC said, earlier this year when the commission’s bills were introduced, that work on the dredging project could begin this October.
The Port of Davisville is currently the eighth largest auto importer in North America, receiving more than 125 car ships containing more than 135,000 vehicles per year. The business at the port produces $119 million annually in total output, while employing 1,105 people with personal earnings of $42.6 million and generating $9 million in state and local tax revenues annually.
The port requires maintenance dredging to 32 feet, and the removal of about 260,000 cubic yards of material, to accommodate fully loaded ships, which have an average depth of 27 feet. The current depth of the pier area, turning basin and access channel is 27 feet and, depending on the tides, can be as shallow as 25 feet.
The Walaska resolution now goes to the House of Representatives for action. A similar House resolution, has already been approved by the House and is currently before the Senate Committee on Finance.
Dredging Today Staff, May 30, 2012;