Graves proposes solution to fixing America’s ports, harbors with no new fees

U.S. Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) is cosponsoring a bipartisan bill that would use existing federal funds to improve ports and harbors around the United States.

“The agriculture economy in my home state of Missouri relies on our nation’s port infrastructure to send our products all over the world,” Rep. Graves said on Tuesday. “When any portion of our national infrastructure system doesn’t function properly that raises the costs of goods for everyone.”

Rep. Graves on April 30 cosponsored the Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act, H.R. 2396, which is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), to authorize the use of credited monies in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to support navigation, according to the text of the bill.

“Congress should ensure that the funds collected to improve the efficiency of our ports are invested for their intended purpose,” said Rep. Graves, ranking member of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Currently, shippers pay into the $9.3 billion Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which subsidizes congressionally approved maintenance activities, many of which Rep. Graves said haven’t been carried out yet.

If enacted, H.R. 2396 would improve how Congress appropriates collected trust funds for authorized harbor maintenance needs, including the $9.3 billion balance, and would allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to spend roughly $34 billion over the next decade to dredge all federal harbors “without raising one more dime in taxes,” according to the bill’s executive summary.

“America’s ports and harbors are vital to the entire economy,” Rep. Graves said. “Farmers, manufacturers and businesses across the country rely on ports for trade and the products we all buy at the store on a daily basis have often traveled by water at some point to get there.

U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), who also cosponsored the bill, said the Port of Erie in his home state has been neglected due to a lack of funding. “American businesses need us to properly maintain our ports so they can stay competitive on the global stage and create more jobs for American workers,” he said.