The Senate could introduce legislation key to authorizing the deepening of East Coast ports and improving inland maritime routes by the end of the year, according to the head of the Waterways Council.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif, told Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., this week that she wants to begin work on a new Water Resources Development Act in the week of Sept. 10, said Michael Toohey, president of the council, which represents inland waterways interests such as barge operators and port authorities.
Inhofe, second-in-command on the Environmental Public Works Committee to Boxer, plans to see whether his fellow members will back such a move, Toohey said.
Like it did with the last WRDA in 2007, the maritime industry would welcome movement on creating such legislation.
Before it gets to that point, however, any bill will have to figure out how to authorize projects, considering the House has a ban on earmarks. Funding for port projects is granted separately through the annual appropriations process.
Presidential administration requests for selected projects could be one way to circumvent the ban, Toohey said.
The maritime industry is in dire need of good news from Washington, after the recently passed surface transportation bill cut the amount of U.S.-flag carriers’ federal food aid shipments by a third. The Obama administration’s announcement on Thursday to fast-track seven East Coast port infrastructure projects helped, but advocates looking for increased dollars saw less go to ports in the latest round of the TIGER grant program.