DeFazio Fights for Critical Funding to Maintain and Create Jobs at Oregon Ports
Today, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) blasted House Republican leadership for removing his bipartisan provision to guarantee that money intended to dredge the nation’s coastal and inland commercial ports would actually go towards harbor maintenance, rather than unrelated government spending. DeFazio’s provision had been included in a committee-passed version of the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (WRDA), which authorizes funding for the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) navigation, flood control, and environmental restoration projects. Republican leadership stripped that language from the legislation before it was considered on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“The federal government has a responsibility to safeguard, maintain, and strengthen our ports, harbors and waterways that support thousands of jobs and economic growth in communities across the country. I am extremely disappointed that the Republican leadership decided to play politics with the health of our coastal communities. My bipartisan provision would have ensured that funds collected in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) are only used for harbor maintenance—not for unrelated government spending. The additional investment from this provision would have created and sustained needed jobs in Oregon’s coastal communities, would have made conditions safer for our fishing and recreation industries, and would have provided a tremendous boost to our economic competiveness. Although I was unsuccessful today, I will continue to work with colleagues from both sides of the aisle who supported the provision in order to prevent Congress from diverting these funds from their intended purpose in the future,” said DeFazio.
Because Republicans broke their bipartisan agreement to include DeFazio’s HMTF fix, DeFazio voted against WRDA. Similar legislation was approved by the Senate earlier this month. The two bills are expected to be reconciled in the coming weeks and a final bill brought before the House and Senate before the end of the year. As a key negotiator on the legislation, DeFazio will continue to fight for Oregon’s priorities.
PERMANENT FUNDING FOR SMALL PORTS
DeFazio secured a provision that guarantees the nation’s small ports will permanently receive at least 10 percent of annual funding provided for dredging across the country. This set-aside will help to address the critical needs of small ports in Southwest Oregon, and will generate additional revenue over time as Congress provides more funding to the Corps.
“Even though my HMTF provision was dropped from the bill, I was able to secure a number of priorities that are major victories for Oregon’s coastal communities. I am happy that the legislation includes my provision to guarantee that small ports receive a minimum of $90 million annually and no less than 10 percent of the Corps’ overall Operations and Maintenance funding each year for infrastructure needs. This measure will ensure that some of our most critical needs will be met in our ports and harbors—no matter what size,” said DeFazio.
For years, the federal government has neglected to invest in our nation’s small ports and harbors. DeFazio has fought repeatedly during his time in Congress to secure federal funds to dredge small ports along Oregon’s south coast. In 2014, he secured a provision that temporarily boosted funding for small, emerging ports. The legislation passed today makes that provision permanent.
FIGHTING TO STOP WASTEFUL FEDERAL SPENDING ON SPLASH PARKS
DeFazio also fought to strip a provision that would have designated limited Corps resources to build a splash park, covered basketball courts, soccer and baseball fields for an economic development project in Fort Worth, Texas. With a backlog of $68 billion in critical water infrastructure projects, limited Corps construction dollars should not be diverted for recreational features that provide no economic value. His amendment was defeated 181-243.
- DeFazio applauded the inclusion of funding to help the city of Flint, Michigan protect its citizens and children from the ongoing health risks resulting from lead contamination of its water system.
- DeFazio supported an amendment that will assist in establishing new watercraft inspection stations and support coverage for existing stations within the geographic boundaries of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. These inspection stations will help to halt the spread of aquatic invasive species, such as quagga and zebra mussels, from hitching a ride on personal watercrafts from lake to lake, and from waterbody to waterbody. The amendment was approved by voice vote.
- The legislation includes a DeFazio provision that directs the federal government to fund a study of the conditions of federal breakwaters and jetties that protect the nation’s coastal ports. Like levees and dams before, the condition of the nation’s water-related infrastructure is deteriorating. This federal study will provide necessary information detailing the true state of our jetties so Congress can take future steps to address the backlog of critical projects;
- DeFazio secured a provision that increases federal transparency by requiring the Corps to make publicly available all data related to federal dredging contracts, including volumes, federal cost estimates, winning bid price, and other submitted bid offers;
- This legislation will remove an unnecessary land-use restriction at Cascade Lock and Dam in Oregon, which will allow Cascade Locks to expand and develop jobs within their business park;
- DeFazio secured language directing the Corps to look at the potential for historical, cultural, economic, and recreational aspects of disposing of Corps-owned assets. This will benefit Willamette Falls Locks in Clackamas County, Oregon, which was closed by the Corps in 2011;
- The legislation included the authorization of federal funding for the Lower Willamette River Environmental Dredging and Ecosystem Restoration Project, which will restore ecosystem functions by reconnecting floodplain habitat to the river and improving fish and wildlife habitats.