Aucoin: Port shares navigation channel issues with Congressional panel

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, December 2, 2015

In an effort to secure funding for navigation channel maintenance, the Port of South Louisiana participated in a Congressional Roundtable before the United States Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Nov. 13.

At the request of Congressman Graves, the meeting was held in New Orleans at the Louisiana State Supreme Court and the discussion focused on “The Importance of Port, Waterway, Flood Control & Ecosystem Restoration Improvements to the Nation’s Economy: Concepts for the Next Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).”

Following passage of WRDA 2014, Congress made a commitment to passing a WRDA Bill every two years to fund critical infrastructure projects. By holding the Roundtable, the Committee and area leaders highlighted current issues facing Southeast Louisiana and the need to include them in the 2016 WRDA Bill.

Seaports deliver vital goods, provide essential services, create critical jobs and support local and national economic growth.

United States seaports generate nearly $4.6 trillion in total economic activity and more than $321 billion in federal, state and local taxes, an amazing return on the roughly $2 billion annual Federal appropriations for navigation channel construction and maintenance.

International trade accounts for more than a quarter of the nation’s GDP, allowing America’s seaports to support 13 million high-paying jobs.

I appeared on behalf of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) and stressed the importance of maintaining and constructing the nation’s maritime infrastructure to economic growth, which depends on the movement of goods through ports to and from the global marketplace.

For all the effort put forth by ports to encourage port facility investment, the nation’s economic future is at risk due to insufficient Federal investment for essential maritime infrastructure improvements and maintenance.

The Mississippi River, one of America’s greatest natural resources, is experiencing high flows and sediment loads, which highlights maintenance dredging problems. Vessels transporting goods to and from the Port of South Louisiana have had to navigate with channel depth and width restrictions from March through August of this year.

Full use of the WRRDA’s Harbor Maintenance Tax revenues would provide the estimated $70 million per year needed to fully maintain the main river channel and perform dredging of South Pass and other navigation work that has been deferred annually since 2007.

This channel improvement will enable ports along the Mississippi River to accommodate the global trend of larger ships, thus keeping us world-class.

I also stressed the River Region’s dire need of flood protection levees and flood control and the importance of coastal restoration in the protection of not only the ecosystem but also of life and property during severe weather events.

Following the meeting, committee members received a first-hand look at the target area through a flyover of Southeast Louisiana.

Committee members expressed appreciation for the information provided and the impact it will have on their decision-making for funding.

Paul Aucoin is executive director of the Port of South Louisiana. For more information, call 985-652-9278.