Last week’s overwhelming positive vote by the US House of Representatives for the 2014 Water Resources Reform Development Act has secured various projects for the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, along with the Port of Jacksonville.
The bill now moves to the US Senate where it is also expected to be approved.
The vote ensures that US ports that contribute the most to the Harbour Maintenance Trust Fund, based on the value of cargo handled, will benefit the most from the fund; Los Angeles contributes around US$260m, while Long Beach pays more than US$200m annually. The two ports will use the money received through the fund for dredging and other maintenance projects.
In a statement issued by the Port of Los Angeles, interim executive director, Gary Lee Moore said: “[Our] customers are the single largest contributor to the Fund, so we’re pleased to see the bill expands uses to fund port maintenance projects”.
For Long Beach, Doug Drummond, president of the harbour commission, said the Act was “one of the most significant pieces of legislation for port communities across the country”.
In the Port of Jacksonville (Jaxport), the vote offers a ‘green light’ to the US$700m project to deepen the port’s shipping channel, enabling port officials to lobby for its inclusion in future federal budgets. Jacksonville US House representative Ander Crenshaw described the vote as, “a giant step forward for job creation and economic growth in Northeast Florida”.
In common with other US East Coast ports, Jaxport wants to dredge the St Johns River channel from its current 12 m (40 ft) to 14 m (47 ft) in order to handle the larger container vessels expected to use the expanded Panama Canal when it opens.
However, environmentalists have raised concerns over the potential damage the dredge could cause, particularly increases in salinity levels that could threaten important wetland areas. Questions have also been raised as to the economic benefits of the dredge
To date, the US Army Corps of Engineers has allocated US$2.25m towards the preconstruction engineering and design of the dredging project, while President Obama’s 2015 budget included a further US$3.15m. It is estimated that the work will take about 18 months to complete.