US Approves New Water Resources Bill

The US has adopted a final water resources development bill which focuses on the Harbor Maintenance Tax, providing a continuation of the donor and energy transfer port program, as well as on modernizing the channel deepening cost-share formula.

Rebranded as the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN), the bill modernizes the cost-share depth for navigation construction projects from 45 to 50 feet deep to reflect the growing size of the world vessel fleet, the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) said.

“The original deepening formula was established 30 years ago in WRDA 1986. Enormous changes in global shipping have occurred since then; there have been multiple generations of containerships deployed, with ship sizes increasing from 3,000 to over 18,000 twenty-foot equivalent units, or TEUs,” Kurt Nagle, AAPA President and CEO, said.

The cost-share for maintenance was updated in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) 2014 and this provision in WIIN makes maintenance and construction cost-share depths consistent, according to AAPA.

WIIN also includes authorization backstop language that ensures Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) funding targets will increase by 3 percent over the prior year, even if the HMT revenue estimates decrease, to continue annual progress towards full use of the HMT by 2025.

Another important element of the legislation is an extension of the HMT donor and energy transfer port provision. WIIN extends the program through 2020, along with a provisional extension to 2025 if the annual HMT appropriation targets are met or exceeded. In WIIN, US Congress also included language that clarifies the process for HMT donor rebates and an expansion of this program for medium-size donor ports which handle over 5 million tons of cargo annually.

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