One-liner Facts: WRDA and Harbor Maintenance Tax

WRDA is one of the key transportation issues for Congress this year. Image – Port of Tacoma, via Mercator Media.

One of Senator Barbara Boxer’s highest legislative priorities for 2013 is to pass “WRDA” – the maritime version of MAP-21.  WRDA (Water Resources Development Act) authorizes the projects and programs of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and is the primary source of federal funding for maintaining U.S. sea and river ports. The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund is financed through a fee on the value of cargo imported through coastal and Great Lakes ports.

As was the case with surface transportation, it’s been a number of years since Congress last enacted a WRDA bill (2007).  The backlog of projects to keep ports and rivers operating a high level is growing. Maritime stakeholders – including the businesses who export and import goods through ports – are anxious because if funding continues at current levels, by 2040 the U.S. will face a shortfall of nearly $28 billion to meet the dredging needs (according to ASCE).

Senator Boxer is charging ahead, holding two hearings recently on this issue. I pulled some facts out of the testimony from different witnesses and tweeted them over the course of the week under the hashtag #HMTFacts.  (Note for you non-tweeters – tweets are limited to 140 characters.) Below is the collection.  Also see our past stories on ports and freight.

  • U.S. govt projected to lose $575m to $2.1B over next 10 years b/c of cargo diversion to Canada & Mexico. #HMTFacts
  • US marine #ports & inland waterways sector needs $30B in improvements in 2013-20. Feds plan to spend only $14B, #HMTFacts
  • @USACE_HQ estimates full channels at 59 busiest US ports r available less than 35% of time due to inadequate maintenance. #HMTFacts
  • Army Corps annual budget for Mobile Harbor averages $18.5 – $22.6 m, when $28 m is needed to maintain depth/navigation #HMTFacts
  • Costs attributable to delays in the nation’s inland waterways system were $33 billion in 2010, per ASCE. #HMTFacts
  • Continuing #HMT funding at current level results in $28 billion shortfall by 2040 for #ports dredging needs #HMTFacts
  • US has 300 commercial #ports, 12k miles of inland & intra-coastal waterways & about 240 lock chambers, #HMTFacts
  • Army Corps estimates annual maint. dredging needs of up to $1.6B, but annual spending has averaged less than $800M #HMTFacts
  • HMT FY13 receipts estimated at $1.8 B, but Army Corps spending estimated to be only $848 million. #HMTFacts #Ports
  • Feds are sitting on a #HMT surplus of $6.95B while #ports & waterway projects are waiting for funding. #HMTFacts
  • MT: pbea In FY11 80% of HMT receipts were collectd by Customs in just 25 US ports, where rcpts don’t necess. correlate to O&M dredging need #HMTFacts