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Federal Budget Shortchanges Channel Maintenance

The American Association of Port Authorities expressed alarm on February 3 that the Administration’s FY05 budget for Corps Civil Works projects fails to adequately fund critical deep-draft navigation projects. 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, according to an AAPA news release.

Especially troubling is misuse of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), which receives ad valorem taxes paid on imports and coastwise movements, the release says. The HMTF was established by Congress in 1986 to recover costs of maintaining the nation’s deep-draft navigation channels. Rather than releasing the funds for their intended purpose, however, a significant portion remains idle. In fact, surplus funds in the HMTF have grown from year to year. Based on the FY05 budget just announced, the fund surplus is expected to grow by an additional $377 million between FY04 and FY05, to more than $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. "Unless this situation is rectified, America will soon face dire consequences as our system of transport for global trade is seriously compromised."

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