Maritime Industry Applauds Passage of WRRDA

 

July 2014

 

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Just in time for National Maritime Day, the Senate overwhelmingly approved a $12.3 billion bill May 22 that improves the nation’s ports and waterways. President Barack Obama signed the legislation into law June 10.

 

The measure – known as the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) – was widely praised by the maritime industry and had previously seen similar bipartisan approval in the House.

 

The $12.3 billion in funding provided by the WRRDA will have a significant impact on the nation’s maritime industry. It includes funding for a variety of waterway construction and repair projects, including dredging operations for several East Coast ports. It also provides funding for much-needed dredging projects along the Great Lakes.

 

“This is good news for us,” said Scott Winter, vice president of the SIU-affiliated Maritime Trades Department, which is also headed by SIU President Michael Sacco. “The bipartisanship demonstrated by our elected officials to advance a WRRDA bill is a clear victory for organized labor, which will (help) maintain approximately 30 million U.S. jobs and will facilitate future job growth in maritime.”

 

The new law also sets the nation on a path for full use of the Harbor Maintenance Tax. Established with cargo taxes to fund port modernization, the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund is sitting on billions in surpluses that continue to grow every year. That money could, and should, go toward dredging and other port modernization projects, according to the SIU, MTD and many other organizations and legislators.

 

“WRRDA and the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund provide good-paying jobs with benefits, which will cultivate a robust future economy and maritime industry,” Winter added.

 

The bill’s passage marks the first time Congress has updated the Water Resources Development Act since 2007. The SIU was among the many maritime organizations pushing for legislation that addressed the need for dredging and other repairs to the nation’s waterways.

 

“This measure will strengthen our nation’s transportation network, keep America competitive in the global marketplace, and reform and streamline the way we move forward with improvements to our ports, locks, dams and other water resources infrastructure,” said Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “This legislation is about jobs and our country’s economic prosperity.”

 

The bill won praise on the Senate side, as well.

 

“This is a strong bipartisan bill,” said Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who is one of the bill’s authors. “It’s a jobs bill that is very much needed in our weak economy. It’s what we need to do more of.”

 

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) agreed.

 

“This is a bill that rises above bipartisan politics,” she said prior to the vote. “I am glad that we will consider it expeditiously so we can quickly send it to the president for signature.”

 

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