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Senator Murray filed an amendment to the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 (AWIA) this week that would increase funding to ports in Washington state and across the country 

Ports account for 31 million jobs nationwide, over a quarter of U.S. economy 

ALSO: Senate Democrats, led by Murray, today sent a letter to the heads of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works in support of the amendment – MORE HERE  

Senators: “The amendment will benefit our ports of all sizes and regions and continue to promote the safe and efficient movement of goods through a broad array of geographically diverse ports and harbors”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) today joined Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to request the inclusion of a proposed amendment to the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020—commonly known as WRDA—that would modify the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) to more equitably fund maintenance projects at America’s ports. If passed, the provision would significantly increase investment in ports in Washington state and across the country, which in turn will support American jobs and help U.S. ports maintain a competitive edge in an increasingly global maritime economy. The Senate is likely to consider the measure later this month. In support of the amendment, the senators today sent a letter to Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Tom Carper (D-DE), the top Republican and Democrat respectively on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, advocating for the provision in the larger legislation.

“The amendment will benefit our ports of all sizes and regions and continue to promote the safe and efficient movement of goods through a broad array of geographically diverse ports and harbors. We feel equitable distribution of the HMTF is absolutely critical in keeping the country’s ports competitive and our workforce strong,” the Senators wrote in their letter.

“Our nation’s ports account for over a quarter of America’s economy and 31 million jobs nationwide. Deteriorating harbors and waterways could significantly harm our port system through the vessel groundings, harbor closures, and negative economic impacts for importers and exporters alike. To ensure our ports can remain competitive and viable, we must ensure our navigation channels and waterways are maintained to the necessary depths and widths. To sustain, grow, and strengthen our nation’s port infrastructure, we respectfully request your consideration and support of our HMTF amendment to this year’s WRDA legislation.”

The amendment, filed on Monday by Senator Murray, would incorporate long sought after changes to the HMTF and build on a provision included in the CARES Act, which allowed all of the money collected through the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) each year to be returned directly to ports to improve infrastructure and keep ports competitive. Senator Murray’s amendment would more equitably distribute that funding to ports across the country by setting aside minimum percentages of HMTF funding for donor and energy ports, Great Lakes ports, and small harbors, meaning that ports across the country, including the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma, would receive an increased, fairer share of HMTF funding.

Read the full letter HERE or below:

June 10, 2020

The Honorable John Barrasso                                             The Honorable Tom Carper

Chairman                                                                              Ranking Member

Senate Committee on Environment and                        Senate Committee on Environment and        

   Public Works                                                                        Public Works

410 Dirksen Senate Office Building                                  456 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington DC, 20510                                                      Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Barrasso and Ranking Member Carper:

We applaud your hard work, especially in uncertain times, to reauthorize the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). As you finalize the language and prepare for full Senate action, we write to inform you of an amendment we have filed to the 2020 reauthorization bill to codify a unified agreement on the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF). The amendment will benefit our ports of all sizes and regions and continue to promote the safe and efficient movement of goods through a broad array of geographically diverse ports and harbors. We feel equitable distribution of the HMTF is absolutely critical in keeping the country’s ports competitive and our workforce strong.

Recent iterations of the Water Resources and Development Act – first in 2014, and again in 2016 – enacted key HMTF reforms to increase the use of the HMTF for operation and maintenance of federally authorized navigation channels and waterways, ensure greater equity for ports, and support the movement of goods throughout the nation. In addition, the CARES Act contained key changes to the HMTF, providing for full use of Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) revenue collections. While these changes all marked significant progress, this year’s WRDA represents an opportunity to permanently fix the HMTF by providing a stable, suitable, and fair funding formula to allocate HMTF revenues. Doing so will support our ports, encourage economic growth, and reduce risks by enhancing safety.

Building on the successful provision to allow for the full use of the HMTF, now is the time to enact a broad-based agreement to address long-standing concerns over HMTF spending. A comprehensive fix would balance the needs of all regions and all ports by providing a minimum allocation for both small and emerging ports and the Great Lakes, offer funding to HMT net contributors (donors), and build on Congressional intent in the 2014 WRRDA for donor and energy transfer ports. It would also help combat cargo diversion from ports in the U.S. to international ports, which hurts American competitiveness and labor. 

Our nation’s ports account for over a quarter of America’s economy and 31 million jobs nationwide. Deteriorating harbors and waterways could significantly harm our port system through the vessel groundings, harbor closures, and negative economic impacts for importers and exporters alike. To ensure our ports can remain competitive and viable, we must ensure our navigation channels and waterways are maintained to the necessary depths and widths. To sustain, grow, and strengthen our nation’s port infrastructure, we respectfully request your consideration and support of our HMTF amendment to this year’s WRDA legislation. We look forward to working with you on this critical matter. 

Sincerely,

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