New Senate WRDA Bill Would Aid U.S. Navigation Infrastructure
Legislation includes many AAPA-recommended provisions
A new Water Resources Development Act, or WRDA (S. 2848), approved 19-1 today by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, includes key language and provisions recommended by the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA)—the unified and recognized voice of seaports in the Americas—to maintain and improve America’s port infrastructure to meet the needs of 21st century maritime trade.
“This is a very good bill that will aid our economy and environment, and the ability of America’s ports to handle increasingly large cargo and passenger ships. It reflects a great deal of advocacy by AAPA and our member seaports to authorize crucial funding to maintain and improve our nation’s water and navigation infrastructure,” said Mr. Nagle. “The Senate EPW’s WRDA bill includes modernization of the cost-share formula for deepening projects, extension of WRRDA 2014’s Donor and Energy Transfer Ports funding authorization, and new language to improve the approach of appropriating annual Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) revenues until full use of those funds is achieved.”
The bill also includes authorization for more than two dozen U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chief's Reports, including navigation deepening projects for Port Everglades, in Broward County, Fla., and Brazos Island Harbor, in Brownsville, Tex.
Among the provisions contained in the Senate EPW’s 2016 WRDA bill for which AAPA and its members advocated are:
An improved approach towards full use of HMT revenues. To remedy a funding issue, AAPA recommended that the annual HMT authorized target funding level be either the greater of the existing target, or 103 percent of the prior year’s HMT appropriation until full use of HMT revenues is achieved in 2025. This approach assures annual progress towards full use and reduces potential big fluctuations in annual funding.
Extending the authorization period for WRRDA Section 2106 Donor and Energy Transfer Ports. AAPA advocated for an extension beyond fiscal 2018. The Senate responded by revising the authorization years to fiscal years 2016-2020, a two-year extension. Should Congress hit or exceed the HMT target levels for fiscal years 2016-2020, WRDA 2016 authorizes a five-year extension.
Modernizing the construction cost-share depth. The current cost-share depth for navigation channel deepening was established in WRDA 1986 at a 75 percent federal/25 percent non-federal split for depths to 45 feet, and an even 50 percent split for depths greater than 45 feet. AAPA has long advocated to revise these depths to at least 50 feet to reflect the increased size and draft of the global shipping fleet. WRRDA 2014 revised the maintenance dredging cost-share depth to 50 feet from 45 feet. AAPA’s WRDA 2016 request was to revise the channel deepening cost-share depth to be consistent with the 50-foot maintenance depth change in WRRDA 2014. The Senate responded, changing the cost-share depth to 50 feet.
“We continue to urge Senate leadership for quick action to bring this bipartisan bill to the Senate floor for a vote soon,” said Mr. Nagle. “After waiting seven long years (between 2007 and 2014) for the last WRDA bill, we’re hopeful that this legislation will return to an every-two-year process.”
About AAPA Founded in 1912, AAPA today represents 130 of the leading seaport authorities in the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean and more than 200 sustaining and associate members, firms and individuals with an interest in seaports. According to IHS World Trade Service, combined international sea trade moving through Western Hemisphere ports in 2014 totaled 3.48 billion metric tons in volume and US$3.75 trillion in value. Of that total, ports in Central and South America handled 1.68 billion metric tons of cargo valued at US$1.36 trillion, while North American ports handled 1.79 billion metric tons of goods, valued at US$2.39 trillion. To meet the growing demand for trade, the AAPA and its members are committed to keeping seaports navigable, secure and sustainable. For more information, visit www.aapa-ports.org.