LoBiondo: Spend down harbor maintenance trust fund
Rep Frank A. LoBiondo, R-N.J., called for spending down the $5 billion balance in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.
Speaking Monday at the annual conference of the Connecticut Maritime Association in Stamford, Conn., LoBiondo said dredging harbors can help create jobs and boost the economy, stating that about a quarter of the nation's gross domestic product comes through the nation's ports and that they are a 'huge economic driver.'
'It's one of the areas where spending money will make us money,' he said.
'It's a situation that we are going to have to figure out if we are going to keep maritime trade up and running,' the Capitol Hill lawmaker added.
LoBiondo, who is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, is also one of the co-sponsors of the so-called Realize America's Maritime Promise Act (H.R. 104), which would require spending from the fund to be equal to the level of receipts plus interest credited to the fund in each fiscal year.
On harbor deepening, LoBiondo said there is not enough money to go around to all the ports that want deeper harbors because of the bigger ships expected to call U.S. East and Gulf coast ports as a result of the construction of a third set of larger locks at the Panama Canal.
'I don't know if anybody has even put a price tag on it, to say if all the ports that have a request did it, it would cost 'X' number of dollars. But we do know we have a problem,' he said
LoBiondo said he has not yet looked closely at a proposal by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., to create a panel similar to the commission that proposes military base closings for deciding which water resources projects get funded.
“We are just at the front-end of trying to figure out how to do this,' LoBiondo said. 'It's going to be very difficult when you create winners and losers. Somebody is always going to have a need that feels they are being left out of the process.
'I am interested in getting a number of proposals that are up and have an integration of ideas and come out with a good product,' he said. ' Chris Dupin