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Senators Introduce Bill to Properly Allocate HMTF Funds

On Thursday, April 15, U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., introduced legislation to guarantee that fees collected for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) would be used to properly maintain and operate harbors and ports.

The Senate bill - S. 3213 - joins a companion House bill - H.R. 4844 - introduced by Reps. Bart Stupak, D-Mich. and Charles Boustany, R-La.

Bill Hanson, chairman of the Western Dredging Association board of directors, announced the news at the group’s Midwest Chapter meeting on April 17, saying that industry representatives are optimistic that the measure will pass, as both the Senate and House bills have broad bi-partisan support.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., is an original co-sponsor of the bill, and Kay Bailey Hutchison R-Texas, signed on as the lead Republican co-sponsor. Hanson reported that Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Mary Landrieu, D-La., David Vitter, R-La., Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and Susan Collins, R-Maine have also signed on as sponsors.

Barry Holliday, chairman of the HMTF Fairness Coalition and executive director of the Dredging Contractors of America, testified before a House subcommittee meeting on the day the bill was introduced, informing the group that “The HMTF has a balance of approximately $5.1 billion. Each year, hundreds of millions of dollars collected for this purpose are not being used to address the backlog of necessary maintenance dredging needed to sustain the country’s deep draft navigation system."

In 2009, “only $808 million of dredging and related maintenance costs were reimbursed from the fund through regular appropriations (and) most ports and harbors were unable to be dredged to their authorized project dimensions,” Holliday told the Representatives in his testimony, whose purpose was to urge passage of the Water Rescources Development Act (WRDA) of 2010.

He warned them that “the ability of our ports and harbors to support the nation’s continuing growth in trade and in the defense of our nation” hinges on maintaining these ports and entrance channels, both on the nation’s coasts and in the Great Lakes.

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