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Westport Harbors's Needs to go Unmet?

Location: Washington, DC

WESTPORT HARBOR'S NEEDS TO GO UNMET? -- (Extensions of Remarks - March 20, 2005)


SUNDAY, MARCH 20, 2005

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, I recently had to be the bearer of bad news to the Town of Westport, Massachusetts. Westport is a wonderful place to live, in substantial part because of its natural environment, and the great care that the people of the town take to preserve the great gift which that environment is. Recently, I met with the selectmen of the town to discuss their very reasonable proposal for a dredging project, to cost between $500,000 and $600,000. I told them at the time that we would have trouble because of what has been, in my judgment, excessive tax-cutting leaving us unable to meet basic needs of our society in many ways. Not even the most ardent advocates of tax cuts have claimed that they are in any way capable of dredging a harbor.
Subsequently, after sharing with the selectmen the fact that this would be tough, I received a copy of a letter from the Army Corps of Engineers, making clear that it would be even tougher because of cutbacks in their already inadequate funds imposed upon them by the Bush Administration.

The newspaper Westport Shorelines initially editorialized in a very eloquent way about this very regrettable decision, and I ask that the Westport Shorelines' excellent analysis be printed here so that Members can get a fuller understanding of the implications of some of the budget cuts that are being imposed. [From Westport Shorelines, March 10, 2005]


Al Qaeda doesn't much care about Westport Harbor so neither do we.

That is the gist of the federal message to Westport this week. In a brief note out of the blue, the feds notified Westport that they won't help dredge the harbor channel after all.
Federal money, the note states, is ``now being allocated to those ports and harbors of greatest national significance ..... Future funding for small harbors such as Westport is unlikely at this time.''

In those few words, the Army Corps of Engineers cedes victory to the sand. Without dredging soon, the main channel will inevitably choke with sand--in places that has already happened. The fate of the fishermen, boatyard and ecosystems that rely on a free-flowing river rank low on the federal priority list.

Don't blame the Army Corps for this one--the decision comes from much higher places. The Army Corps recognized the need and was an enthusiastic participant in the $600,000 project, assisting with expertise, studies and the lion's share of the funding. After years of effort by the Army Corps and Westport dredge committee, the long awaited job was about to happen. The feasibility study was complete (the project passed with flying colors), and final permitting was nearly set.
Stopping it now amounts to much more than inconvenience and delay. All those costly studies have short shelf lives. If allowed to expire,they must be done anew from scratch.
It really amounts to one more instance of a fiscal federal priority system overwhelmed by Iraq, tax cuts and all things anti-terrorism. Although the Iraq/terror link remains murky, the war continues to cost by some estimates $177 million a day, $7.4 million per hour (the Westport dredge project equals about five minutes on the Iraq clock), leaving precious little for much else.

And while there is no denying the need to keep the homeland secure, throwing money at terrorists won't make them go away. Lawmakers trip over themselves to obtain ``anti-terror'' grants by the boatload for local police and fire departments, never mind that the ``terror'' link can be sketchy (last week it was $90,000 to the Portsmouth Fire Department for sprinklers). If we allow our nation terror obsession to drive this nation to financial ruin, the terrorists win anyway.

We already pay dearly, and loss of this dredge project is but one small example. The Westport Harbor channel may not be of ``great national significance'' but it is no less than a lifeline for people here.

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