U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., today joined her colleagues to introduce the Harbor Maintenance Act. This legislation would ensure that funds in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) are used for the intended purpose of dredging and maintaining coastal ports, harbors and waterways. The Harbor Maintenance Tax collects $1.3 to $1.6 billion annually; however these funds are not being used for necessary dredging, allowing our channels to get shallower and narrower, impacting regional and national commerce and endangering vessels. While last year's transportation bill included language affirming the importance of this legislation, the full Harbor Maintenance Act is necessary to ensure that our waterways receive the funds they need to operate efficiently.
"This legislation is extremely important for the proper maintenance of Louisiana's waterways, which serve as gateways to domestic and international trade. Even though Louisiana's port system is the largest in the world and supports economic growth throughout the country, the waterways that serve these ports are not being adequately maintained. We need the Harbor Maintenance Act to ensure these funds are used as intended for our ports and waterways," Sen. Landrieu said.
The Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) and the HMTF were established in 1986 to fund operations and maintenance of federal ports and harbors. Despite a "surplus" in the trust fund, the Army Corps of Engineers estimates that full channel dimensions at the nation's busiest 59 ports are available less than 35 percent of the time. Of the 149 ports nationwide, six of the top 10 are located along the Gulf Coast. Port of South Louisiana, Port of New Orleans, Port of Lake Charles, Port of Baton Rouge, Port of Plaquemines and the Port of Morgan City rank among the top 100 for total tonnage in the United States.