H.R. 104 and S. 412: A Permanent Solution
to the Dredging Crisis
Years of inadequate funding for dredging ports and waterways have left an estimated 15.5 million cubic yards of sediment clogging the Great Lakes Navigation System. That total is expected to grow to 21 million cubic yards by 2015.
The impacts of the dredging crisis are felt every day throughout America. Carriers on the Great Lakes estimate that three of every four cargos they carry each year represent less than full loads. The amount of cargo that's left behind varies with the size of the vessel. When low water levels have amplified the lack of dredging, the largest vessels have forfeited as much as 12,000 tons, or 17%, of their per-trip carrying capacity. Those "lightloads" not only short-change American industry, they deny vessel operators the ability to offer their customers the most competitive freight rate.
The dredging crisis is man-made. The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), the repository for a federal tax levied on water-borne commerce specifically to pay for dredging, has a surplus of $5.65 billion, and it's growing. Why? Because the HMTF collects about $1.6 billion per year, but spends less than $800 million.
Two bills requiring the HMTF to spend as much as it takes in have been introduced in the 112th Congress: H.R. 104 and S. 412. If provided adequate fundingapproximately $200 millionthe Corps can restore the Great Lakes Navigation System to project dimensions and allow water-borne commerce to achieve the efficiencies the American economy needs to fully rebound from the recession.