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Congressman Peter DeFazio

Representing the 4th District of OREGON

DeFazio Secures Permanent Funding for Oregon’s Small Ports in Bipartisan House Legislation

May 25, 2016
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Peter DeFazio (D-OR), applauded Committee passage of critical legislation that will strengthen coastal communities, and create and sustain needed jobs. This legislation, the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (WRDA), authorizes funding for Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) navigation, flood control and environmental restoration projects, directly benefiting Oregon’s small ports.

“This bill is a huge victory for Oregon’s coastal communities. This legislation will create and sustain jobs on the coast, make conditions safer for Oregon’s fishing and recreation industries, and boost our state and nation’s economic competitiveness. I am happy that the legislation includes my provision to guarantee that small ports will receive a minimum of $90 million annually and no less than 10 percent of the Corps’ overall Operations and Maintenance funding each year for critical infrastructure needs. Also, for the first time, it guarantees that funds collected in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund will not be diverted and will only be used for their intended purpose—harbor maintenance. I commend my colleagues for their bipartisan work and I look forward to moving this legislation through the House,” said DeFazio.

As a key negotiator on the bipartisan legislation, DeFazio successfully 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.

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.

DeFazio also secured a provision that ensures 100 percent utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) for harbor maintenance and dredging by 2027.  When Congress created the HMTF, it was understood that that the fees and taxes collected from industry and deposited into the trust fund would be used to support the nation’s network of ports.  Currently only about half of the funds collected through the HMTF are used for harbor maintenance.  This legislation ensures that money intended to dredge the nation’s coastal and inland commercial ports actually goes towards the Corps’ backlog of projects, rather than being used as an offset for general government spending. 

Additional highlights of the legislation:

  • 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.

The legislation must now be considered by the full House. Similar legislation, S. 2848, the Water Resources Development Act of 2016, was approved by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works in April and is awaiting action by the full Senate.