Ports: Budget stiffs dredging

Ports: Budget stiffs dredging

The Bush Administration's fiscal 205 budget for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Civil Works projects fails to adequately fund critical deep-draft navigation projects, the American Association of Port Authorities said.

"This is an ongoing problem for the nation's maritime transport system, which is facing imminent crisis as a result of continued insufficient federal funding for the Corps of Engineers to perform channel maintenance dredging," Alexandria, Va.-based group said in a new release Wednesday.

The AAPA also termed "especially troubling" the "misuse" of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund that is supposed to recover costs of maintaining the nation's deep-draft navigation channels. The group noted that a "significant portion" of the fund is unused, and that under the 2005 budget proposal the fund surplus is expected to grow by an additional $377 million to over $2.6 billion.

"While denied access to these much needed funds, our nation's waterways are suffering the effects of inattention," said AAPA President Kurt Nagle said. "Unless this situation is rectified, America will soon face dire consequences as our system of transport for global trade is seriously compromised.

"Channel maintenance needs are increasingly mounting to crisis proportions with each year that passes without sufficient funds for dredging," Nagle said. "We strongly urge the Administration and Congress to release the HMTF funds in 2005, or face the prospect of crippling America's waterways and rendering them unable to support the nation's projected growth in international trade."

The AAPA represents 150 public port authorities in the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as 300 members, firms and individuals with seaport interests.