Mr. CRAVAACK. Mr. Chairman, in March of this year, Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, testified before the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment that the administration is preparing to plan draft legislation to expand the scope of projects eligible to receive Harbor Trust Fund moneys.
In the hearing, Assistant Secretary Darcy alluded to the Administration's interest in using Harbor Trust Fund moneys for port security, among other things.
While I fully support funding port security through the general appropriations process, I oppose the efforts to divert Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund moneys until the Federal Government demonstrates it has fully used these trust funds to their intended purpose, and that is dredging.
As many of you know, the Harbor Maintenance Tax is an ad valorem tax assessed on the maritime shippers that use America's ports. By law, revenues of this user tax are to be dedicated to the United States Army Corps of Engineers' operations and maintenance budgets to ensure American navigation channels remain dredged to their authorized depths and widths.
Despite the significant revenues and the roughly $6 billion supposed balance in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, our Nation's maritime infrastructure has largely fallen into disrepair.
Only one-third of our Nation's navigation channels are at their authorized depths and widths. Portions of the important Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway have been closed to commercial navigation due to lack of maintenance dredging. Eight out of the ten of our Nation's largest harbors are not dredged at their authorized depths and widths.
Mr. Chairman, make no mistake, this has a direct impact on American job creation and prosperity. When American ships have to ``light load'' to clear the shallowest channel, American economic productivity is lost.
For example, for each inch silted in, the American Laker fleet collectively, per voyage, leaves 8,000 tons of Minnesota ore on the docks in Duluth. That's enough to produce over 6,000 cars. I know I don't have to tell the ranking member and fellow Steel Caucus member what this means.
Moreover light loading causes increased transportation costs for our exports, decreases our national economic competitiveness. Every billion dollars in exports, Mr. Chairman, translates to 15,000 American jobs.
Given the economic straits we are in it is imperative we don't hold back American business with increased transportation costs caused by unmaintained channels.
We must, Mr. Chairman, ensure that the moneys intended for dredging are not siphoned off for other programs. My amendment will prohibit moneys from being used by the administration to develop a plan or draft legislation to expand the scope of the projects eligible to receive Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund moneys.
American shippers are taxed specifically to maintain the channels they, and our Nation, depend on. It is imperative that we ensure that harbor trust fund moneys be spent as they are intended, thereby ensuring American competitiveness and the proliferation of American jobs.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Let me thank the gentleman for his amendment and tell him that I'm pleased to accept it. I know that you included the fact that you wouldn't have to tell the ranking of the important purpose of your amendment. I also share those same sentiments. We don't want to degrade the purposes for the harbor maintenance fund from the express purposes now. There are too many priorities that are out there. We don't need to expand them.
I'm very pleased to lend my support.
I yield to the gentleman from Indiana.