PORT DREDGING ACT

IT TOOK 10 YEARS, but all the parties involved with the ports and with waterway transportation are to be congratulated for achieving a compromise proposal that will provide much needed funding for improvements to the nation's ports and waterways.

The Water Resources Development Act, signed by President Reagan Wednesday, sets aside over $16 billion in funds for water projects, more than $5 billion of which will finance 42 port development projects and seven lock and dam projects.The bill, the last on the congressional agenda before adjournment earlier this month, was the subject of several battles, not only in the industry, but also between the administration and Congress. But out of those conflicts came a new cost-sharing system between the federal government and the local project sponsors that resolved a major difference between the White House and the lawmakers.

The measure was held hostage in the last weeks of the session by the House Ways and Means Committee, which used the proposal to win additional amendments to the budget reconciliation measure.

The chairman of Ways and Means, Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., reportedly used the Water Resources Development Act - which also contains funding and authorizations for flood control and other water projects - to force the Senate Finance Committee to approve an extension of benefits for aid to

families with dependent children and to ensure funding for the construction of a $32 million post office in Chicago.

That was the last of a number of attempted trade-offs by legislators in positions of power, but the bill did pass and we applaud Congress for the monumental effort.

We commend the industry for helping to eliminate the pork barrel image of similar bills in the past by accepting responsibility for paying for a percentage of their dredging projects. Such local sponsors will have to raise about $2 billion of the $5 billion total.

That new cost-sharing system also should help ensure that only the most cost-effective and economically feasible projects are tackled.

Now that the long battle to enact the bill is over, we urge the industry to make its new partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers a success.

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