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Water infrastructure bill heading to Senate

Keywords: Tags  Water Resources Development Act, WRDA, Senate, American Association of Port Authorities, Jim Walker, Thomas Donnelly, National Water Resources Association, Harbor Maintenance Tax Samuel Frizell

NEW YORK — An infrastructure bill that would provide funding for harbor maintenance and port improvement is set to hit the floor of the U.S. Senate in April or May. It will be the first of its kind to do so in six years.

The Water Resources Development Act of 2013 (WRDA) would allocate funds for harbor maintenance, waterway improvements, flood-risk management, environmental restoration and water supply and wastewater projects, among other things. The bill was approved unanimously by the Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works (EPW) late last month.

The bill is traditionally passed every two years, but this year’s WRDA would be the first since 2007.

"(This bill) will make sure (ports) are maintained at their dimensions. Lack of depth is limiting our ability to operate at maximum efficiency—especially on bulk cargo, whether it’s coal, grain, or steel," Jim Walker, director of navigation policy and legislation at the American Association of Port Authorities, told AMM.

"You’ve got to make sure the port facilities and the channels are going to be able to make maximum use of this so that American goods can compete in the global marketplace," he added.

However, not everyone was as optimistic. "I can’t say we’re overly enthusiastic about the bill, because it doesn’t include some of the things that are important, such as project and program authorizations," Thomas F. Donnelly, executive vice president of the National Water Resources Association, told AMM.

Notably, the bill would require that proceeds from the Harbor Maintenance Tax, a 0.125-percent federal levy imposed on cargo values, be used for harbor maintenance. Port and shipping interests have long argued that the fund’s surplus wasn’t being used as intended (, Sept. 24).

Editor's note: This story was updated April 5, 2013. Due to an editing error, the article originally misstated the amount of the Harbor Maintenance Tax Fund surplus. The surplus is currently more than $7.1 billion and likely to be $8.1 billion by the end of 2013, according the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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