House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) have urged President Biden to fully utilize the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) in his upcoming budget request, a move that would make billions of dollars in already-collected fees available to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to maintain U.S. ports and harbors, which create jobs and help drive the economy. In total, the country’s maritime transportation industry supports more than $4 trillion in commerce and employs more than 23 million people.
In their letter, DeFazio and Graves noted that while the HMTF remains underutilized—with approximately $10 billion sitting idle in the trust fund and an additional $1.6 billion in collections being deposited annually—the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act of 2020, signed into law late last year— has given the President new tools to finally unlock these much-needed funds and make them available to communities across the country.
“By taking advantage of these increased spending limits in your FY 2022 Budget Request and releasing these funds, you can maximize the capability of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to meet existing Federal harbor maintenance obligations and have an immediate positive benefit on our Nation’s economy and critical infrastructure,” DeFazio and Graves wrote.
DeFazio and Graves continued: “Without raising any taxes, the Corps could spend significantly more funds to meet the growing maintenance dredging needs and ensure the continued competitiveness of our ports if we unlock the idle funds and begin the path towards full utilization of the HMTF, as provided for in WRDA 2020.”