WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Sen. Rand Paul introduced and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) co-sponsored the Harbor Equity Act, which prioritizes smaller harbors for dredging work.
The Harbor Equity Act would benefit smaller harbors facing shut-downs, such as the Hickman River Port in Kentucky and the Port of Charleston in South Carolina. The legislation would drop the tonnage requirement for dredging and require the Army Corps of Engineers to prioritize smaller harbors for dredging rather than just larger, commercial harbors.Without this prioritization, the financial impact on farmers, towing companies, and the small communities they serve would be significant.
“Small communities across the country rely on water transport, be it in coastal or land-locked states. And our nation’s commerce hinges on the quality of its transportation infrastructure,” Sen. Paul said. “Hindering access to these ports through lack of funding and the resulting shutdowns creates a ripple effect through the thousands of small communities whose economic prosperity depends on transport, and the nation that relies on their products.”
The Army Corps currently prioritizes harbor dredging for those harbors that see 1 million or more tons in traffic per year by relying on non-mandatory self-reporting by shippers. Setting the requirement for dredging eligibility at 1 million tons removes hundreds of small community harbors from Corps funding, which means they must fund their own dredging or shut down operations. These small harbors are usually the backbone of local commerce in small communities, facilitating the transport of agriculture and manufacturing products to larger ports. By dropping the minimum tonnage requirement – and using a more reliable and accurate metric for calculating tonnage – the bill ensures that the Corps will prioritize these smaller harbors – the engines of local commerce. Based on the most recent available data provided by the Army Corps (2009), there are approximately 21 harbors that rank below 1 million total tons per year.