US Congress increases funding for seaport programmes

Significant increases for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Harbour Maintenance Tax operations and maintenance activities and construction budgets have been added to the proposed USD 1.01 trillion Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 hammered out in the U.S. Congress late Tuesday.

The increases also include the Environmental Protection Agency’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) grants program.

According to the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), even though the Department of Transportation’s TIGER (Transportation Infrastructure Generating Economic Recovery) grants program will drop to USD 500 million compared with fiscal 2014’s USD 600 million mark, funding is still significantly higher than the House-proposed mark of USD 100 million.

AAPA said it and its members have worked hard with its coalition partners and Congressional members this year for the increase in EPA’s DERA grants funding from USD 20 million to USD 30 million, and for the 10 percent increase in funding for the Corps’ HMT O&M activities.

The funding bill agreement also provides a 24 percent increase in the Corps’ fiscal 2015 coastal navigation construction budget over fiscal 2014 (an increase from USD 155 million to USD 192 million) in recognition of the need to modernize and expand America’s deep-draft navigation channels.

With regard to the Corps’ HMT O&M budget, AAPA recognizes WRRDA’s June 2014 enactment came in the midst of the ongoing appropriations process, “but we’re pleased that Congress plans to significantly increase funding above the $915 million requested by the Administration,” said AAPA President and CEO Kurt Nagle.

He further noted that, in the appropriations bill agreement, Congress will provide USD 1.1 billion in funding in fiscal 2015, representing a 10 percent increase over the landmark USD 1 billion appropriated last year. AAPA estimates that about USD 20 million should go for expanded uses at donor ports this year, as authorized under WRRDA.

“The association is looking ahead to President Obama’s fiscal 2016 budget request and for Congress to hit the HMT target that was established in WRRDA, which would provide 69 percent of the USD 1.9 billion estimated to be collected in 2015 HMT revenues,” he said.

All federal agencies and departments will receive an appropriation through the end of the fiscal year except the Department of Homeland Security, which manages the Port Security Grants (PSG) program.

The DHS received a short-term continuing resolution through Feb. 27 due to the disagreement between Congress and the president over his new immigration initiative. Although AAPA believes the PSG program will continue to be funded at USD 100 million for fiscal 2015, the final amount will remain uncertain until after DHS’ continuing resolution expires.


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