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WRRDA’s promised funding for US ports isn’t guaranteed

Congressional appropriators, or those with the purse strings, aren’t bound to follow the guidance set forth by the Water Resources Reform Development Act, which President Barack Obama is expected to soon sign into law.

Just because Congress promises to send hundreds of millions of dollars more annually to U.S. ports and more fairly distribute the funding doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

The bill sets targets for reforming the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund so that all the money will go back to ports by fiscal 2025, but there is no mandate or trigger to force Congress to back up its goals with dollars, said Paul Bea, principal of maritime consultant PHB Public Affairs. Currently, only half of the $1.8 billion collected in harbor maintenance taxes — a 0.125 percent levy of the value of imported cargo — goes back to ports, with the rest being used to plug federal budget holes.

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