President Obama on June 10 signed into law the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014, the first major US waterways legislation in seven years.
The legislation authorizes 34 projects across the country, including dredging at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. It identifies more than $12 billion worth of new water infrastructure projects, particularly on the East Coast and in the South, and authorizes funding for them, including flood protection, ecosystem restoration and maintenance of ports and navigation routes for commerce and the movement of goods.
The US Senate on May 22 voted 91-7 to approve $12.3 billion legislation that authorizes spending on infrastructure projects to boost US ports and waterways. The House of Representatives approved the same bill on a 412-4 vote earlier that week.
In addition to authorizing crucial port projects, the legislation reforms the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to increase port investment. Despite substantial maintenance needs at some US ports, only roughly half of the taxes collected in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund each year are actually used for port maintenance activities.
The legislation also calls for full expenditure of all revenues collected in the Trust Fund by 2025.
In his remarks, the President said the legislation would put Americans to work modernizing the country’s water infrastructure, plus restore vital ecosystems.
“As more of the world’s cargo is transported on these massive ships, we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got bridges high enough and ports that are big enough to hold them and accommodate them so that our businesses can keep selling goods made in America to the rest of the world,” Obama said. “Meanwhile, many of America’s businesses ship their goods across the country by river and by canal, so we’ve got to make sure that those waterways are in tip-top shape.”