The House in Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union had under consideration the bill (H.R. 4348) to provide an extension of Federal-aid highway, highway safety, motor carrier safety, transit, and other programs funded out of the Highway Trust Fund pending enactment of a multiyear law reauthorizing such programs, and for other purposes:
Mr. GENE GREEN of Texas. Mr. Chair, I support the Boustany amendment. I have been a long-time supporter of the RAMP Act. I represent the Port of Houston. We pay into the harbor maintenance trust fund, but we get far less out than we pay in. In fact, we get far less out than we need. We are facing a dredging crisis in upcoming years if we cannot get more harbor maintenance funding.
I am proud to represent the Port of Houston. The work that happens here and the commerce that is moved through here support the economy of the entire region. The Port is the largest foreign tonnage port and the largest petrochemical port in the country. In fact, it moves the second largest amount of cargo in the country. 8.5% of our nation's cargo moves through the Port of Houston. The commerce that occurs at our port is critical to our nation's energy and chemical sectors and to our country's ability to trade and move goods.
In 1998, the Federal Government invested $700 million in deepening and widening the Houston Ship Channel. An investment we have benefitted from tremendously. However, as the years have passed silt has settled and reduced the draft in the channel significantly. Today, only .4% of the channel is dredged to its proper depth across the entire width of the channel. That is astounding. Our nation's investment is rapidly deteriorating. It is time that our government renews its commitment to maintaining the Port.
This is as important as ever as we face new business opportunities that are created by the expansion of the Panama Canal.
The Texas Transportation Institute performed a study and determined that a direct economic impact of the loss of 1 foot of draft is $373 million. The majority of this impact is lost business opportunities due to light loading of non-containerized vessels. If the dredging crisis at the port continues to worsen, this cost will quickly accelerate.
This amendment will help alleviate the crisis. The Port of Houston will get more desperately needed dredging funding. I strongly support this amendment and urge my colleagues to do the same.