December 27, 2013
Good news for local ports and economies arrived last week in the form of a federal budget deal that specifically includes a small pot of additional funds specifically for “small, remote, or subsistence harbors and waterways.”
Living on a coastline that epitomizes these terms, several Oregon and Washington ports ought to be in the running for funds to maintain their links to the Pacific.
n olden times – as in before about 2010 – members of Congress were able to simply earmark tiny slivers of the federal budget to throw a lifeline to small ports that are of pivotal importance to communities from Hammond and Garibaldi to Chinook and Ilwaco, Wash. (Though controversial, earmarks of all kinds totaled less than 1 percent of federal spending by the time they were effectively ended.)
In terms of broad funding philosophy, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been allowed by lawmakers to focus even less attention on rural ports. Ports in Oregon, Washington and elsewhere are beginning to strangle on sediments that filter down into access channels and other crucial linkages that used to be maintained by the Corps and its contractors.
Before last week’s deal, there weren’t even funds for which these ports could compete. Thanks to effective lobbying and attention by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and others, the new Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) spending budget includes $30 million for the corps to maintain access to small ports.