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House passes legislation for harbor investment

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2440 – the Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act – by a 296-109 margin. The legislation would invest $34 billion in Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) revenues towards critical port and harbor maintenance activities over the next decade without raising a dime in new taxes. NMMA applauded House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) for their leadership in advancing the bipartisan measure to unlock the HMTF and build the nation’s water infrastructure.

Approximately $9.3 billion in already collected HMTF revenues sits idle in the U.S. Treasury, and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the HMTF will collect an additional $24.5 billion in new revenues over the next decade. Yet, according to CBO, Congress is on pace to invest only $19.4 billion in harbor maintenance over the same decade, resulting in a HMTF balance of $14.4 billion by fiscal year 2029.

The Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act would do the following to ensure HMTF revenue is used for the intended purpose of maintaining all Federal harbors:

  • Establishing budget authority to expend the expected $24.5 billion in new HMT revenues collected in the HMTF over the next decade; and
  • Provide authority to appropriate additional funds for harbor maintenance needs from the existing $9.3 billion balance in the HMTF.

Full utilization of the fund would provide the necessary funding to enable the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge all federal harbors to their constructed widths and depths. Properly dredged channels are essential to providing critical access points for marinas and coastal communities where businesses depend on marine recreation-based economic activity. Additionally, without sufficient dredging in small recreation-based ports, some recreational boaters are forced to use high traffic commercial channels, which can lead to potential user conflicts and safety concerns.

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