Trade and resource con­ser­va­tion

The Pak Banker - - OPINION -

Amer­ica's ports and wa­ter­ways strengthen our eco­nomic re­silience, pub­lic safety and geopo­lit­i­cal se­cu­rity, en­abling the de­liv­ery of en­ergy, agri­cul­tural prod­ucts and man­u­fac­tured goods. By re­form­ing wa­ter re­sources leg­is­la­tion, U.S. can not only en­sure the re­li­a­bil­ity of these im­por­tant as­sets but our fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity over the long-term.

The re­cov­ery and con­tin­ued growth of U.S. in­dus­tries de­pends on the ca­pac­ity and con­di­tion of an ex­ten­sive mar­itime trans­porta­tion net­work - our gate­way to the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket­place - but nu­mer­ous ports and wa­ter­ways cur­rently re­quire crit­i­cal re­pairs, up­grades and ex­pan­sions.

The Wa­ter Re­sources De­vel­op­ment Act of 2020 (WRDA) stands to re­new the na­tion's com­mit­ment to in­fra­struc­ture mod­ern­iza­tion and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, al­low­ing the U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers to ad­dress main­te­nance needs and con­duct fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies - un­lock­ing the po­ten­tial of Amer­ica's wa­ter re­sources.

The bi­par­ti­san leg­is­la­tion, which has been suc­cess­fully en­acted by three pre­vi­ous con­gresses, would pro­vide on­go­ing au­tho­riza­tions and im­prove­ments to in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment projects, while cre­at­ing lo­cal jobs, sup­port­ing com­mu­ni­ties and pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

Amer­ica has more than 300 com­mer­cial ports and nearly 25,000 miles of in­land wa­ter­ways, which sup­port $1.8 tril­lion an­nu­ally in in­ter­na­tional trade. In 2018, U.S. wa­ter­ways car­ried more than 2.4 bil­lion short tons of farm pro­duce, man­u­fac­tured prod­ucts, raw ma­te­ri­als and other goods, in­clud­ing over 1 bil­lion short tons of petroleum.

How­ever, many of these in­fra­struc­ture as­sets have reached the end of their de­sign life, with grades rang­ing in the Cs and Ds, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety of Civil En­gi­neers' 2017 In­fra­struc­ture Re­port Card. It is crit­i­cal we close the in­vest­ment gap if we hope to both re­pair and mod­ern­ize our wa­ter re­sources sys­tems to be com­pet­i­tive in the 21st cen­tury.

As the U.S. has be­come a ma­jor pro­ducer of nat­u­ral gas and oil - and a net ex­porter of to­tal en­ergy - ports and wa­ter­ways along the Gulf of Mex­ico are in­creas­ingly es­sen­tial to the na­tion's eco­nomic growth and en­ergy se­cu­rity. Con­nec­tions with rail­roads, high­ways and pipe­lines en­sure that sup­ply chains op­er­ate ef­fi­ciently, even in land­locked states across the U.S.

The pro­posed WRDA leg­is­la­tion would al­low for the full ap­pro­pri­a­tion of the cu­mu­la­tive Har­bor Main­te­nance Trust Fund bal­ance, ac­cess­ing $10 bil­lion for dredg­ing ports and in­land har­bors. It would also re­struc­ture the In­land Wa­ter­ways Trust Fund cost-shares, dou­ble aid for small har­bors, and au­tho­rize in­vest­ments for dam up­grades, dredg­ing projects and levee re­pairs. Ac­cess­ing the Trust Fund bal­ance would fi­nance op­er­a­tions and main­te­nance needs at coastal ports, in­land wa­ter­ways and emerg­ing har­bors to in­crease the pro­duc­tiv­ity of our mar­itime com­merce.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the bill would in­clude re­forms to the HighHazard Po­ten­tial Dam Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Pro­gram, which would clar­ify el­i­gi­bil­ity re­quire­ments, bet­ter de­fine tech­ni­cal terms and help the pro­gram run more smoothly.

WRDA re­form would also ad­vance flood con­trol and pro­tec­tion projects aimed at re­duc­ing the po­ten­tial risks of se­vere and repet­i­tive flood­ing events, par­tic­u­larly in farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties across the

Mid­west. To bol­ster re­cov­ery and re­silience, WRDA would al­low the U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers to de­sign mit­iga­tive so­lu­tions for re­peat­edly flooded re­gions, en­sur­ing that wa­ter­ways func­tion without dam­ag­ing the sur­round­ing prop­erty.

The pro­vi­sions in WRDA would fa­cil­i­tate con­struc­tion and main­te­nance projects from Alaska's Dutch Har­bor to the Mis­sis­sippi and Ohio River nav­i­ga­tion sys­tems, ben­e­fit­ting Amer­ica's farm­ers, busi­nesses, con­sumers and nat­u­ral re­sources.

Leg­isla­tive ac­tion on mar­itime in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment stands to re­in­force the long-term health of U.S. trade and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion. The House pri­or­i­tized our wa­ter re­sources last month by unan­i­mously pass­ing WRDA, and now the Se­nate should act to get this to the pres­i­dent's desk.

By reau­tho­riz­ing our fed­eral re­sponse to lo­cal wa­ter re­sources - and main­tain­ing over­sight on the U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers' civil works mis­sion - Congress can se­cure Amer­ica's wa­ter­ways and pre­serve our com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage through re­li­able, far-reach­ing trans­porta­tion in­fra­struc­ture.

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