Congress finalized the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), solidifying critical provisions for SCPA initiatives, including the Post-45 Harbor Deepening Project.
“We applaud Congress for their demonstrated commitment to our nation’s competitiveness through the passage of WRRDA,” said Jim Newsome, SCPA president and CEO. “This bill is critical to modernizing port and port-related infrastructure projects across the country, and we are extremely appreciative that key SCPA priorities, including our harbor deepening project, are included.”
Through WRRDA, the first water resources bill to pass in seven years, Congress provides a path forward for harbor deepening projects ready to begin construction in the absence of congressional authorization. This language is essential to continuing the timely progress of Charleston’s deepening project, which is expected to be ready for construction in late 2015 following the issuance of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chief’s Report next September.
The bill increases the threshold for federal harbor maintenance funding from 45 to 50 feet in order to meet the depth needs of export-laden ports like Charleston, which receives an average of seven post-Panamax vessel calls each week. It also outlines eligibility requirements and the process through which non-federal entities can seek federal reimbursement for construction and O&M costs if Congress does not pass a water bill during a congressional term.
WRRDA also addresses the needs of smaller, emerging ports around the country to compete for federal funding, which could provide opportunities for the Port of Georgetown to seek maintenance funding to restore its harbor depth.
“Members of our delegation worked tirelessly to ensure WRRDA addressed the needs of our harbor deepening project,” said SCPA Board Chairman Bill Stern. “Their support speaks to the merit of our project, and the passage of this bill is incredibly important for South Carolina and the nation.”
Other key provisions include an increased allocation of Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund dollars to ports. Currently, only half of the $1.8 billion collected into the fund is being used for maintenance dredging. WRRDA sets target expenditures that increase each year so that by 2025, 100 percent of the trust fund is spent toward intended operations and maintenance.
The entire South Carolina delegation voted for the bill, which passed 412-4 in the House and 91-7 in the Senate. It now moves to the President’s desk for signature.