Even though revenue from fees collected for the use of the nation’s coastal ports and harbors go into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for infrastructure construction and maintenance, that fund is regularly used instead to help balance the federal budget.
Now lawmakers in Washington, worried that a backlog of water infrastructure projects is only growing, want to see that fund protected and used for its original purpose.
In a report submitted to the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, committee chair Garret Graves, noting that there are some 25,000 miles of inland and intercoastal waterways in the U.S., remarked “the average age of our locks is over 60 years old and well beyond their intended life.”
Graves’ report additionally noted that there is currently a backlog of more than 1,000 waterway infrastructure projects in the U.S. “totaling approximately $96 billion in need.”
Because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a budget of around $6 billion, said Graves, “the simply reality is we will likely never catch up.”
Members of subcommittees are now focused not only on demanding that money from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund be used for the nation’s waterways infrastructure, but also identifying alternative financing mechanisms, such as the use of private partnerships for specific infrastructure construction and upgrading projects.
Last year, a report issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the condition of the nation’s inland waterways a “D” grade, noting what it called a lack of resources devoted to building, maintaining, and operating water infrastructure projects.
By Garry Boulard
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