Kurt Nagle, president of the American Association of Port Authorities, said chances are good that Congress will approve a new Water Resources Development Act this year.
“We’re very optimistic that there will be legislation this year,” AAPA President Kurt Nagle said during a roundtable discussion sponsored by the AAPA, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the New York Shipping Association.
Nagle noted that the Senate passed its version of the WRDA bill on an 83-14 vote this year. The last WRDA was passed in 2007.
The AAPA wants a bill that that would require all harbor maintenance tax revenue to be spent on dredging, that would streamline the permitting process, and that would create a way to identify and advance needed projects in the absence of congressional earmarks.
Nagle and others agreed that ports face an uphill battle for funding of navigation projects and inland freight connectors, and that many citizens take efficient freight transportation for granted.
“The idea that you can get up every morning and eat a banana and it costs 37 cents a pound — we don’t grow bananas here. It’s really phenomenal when you think about it, and that’s the value we bring to the nation,” said Rick Larrabee, director of port commerce at the New York-New Jersey port authority.
“The challenge we have is finding a mechanism for paying for that, where the people who benefit pay. And right now it’s not equally distributed,” he said.
Since 2001, the port authority has spent $2.3 billion on infrastructure and terminal operators have spent some $2 billion, Larrabee said.
However, he said there’s insufficient funding for roads and other outside-the-port infrastructure projects that benefit consumers but aren’t supported by a revenue stream.
Nagle noted that ports or private interests must pay all the costs of terminal facilities and 50 percent of the cost of dredging federally authorized navigation channels deeper than 45 feet.
“We’re bringing all our investment to the table at the port facilities themselves. We’re bringing half the investment on the navigation channels,” he said. “We just need the federal government to continue to uphold its end of the bargain. There is a need for support of these federal projects that benefit the nation.”