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Senate bill would provide funding for U.S. water shipping infrastructure.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and a bipartisan group of senators plan to introduce legislation intended to help to modernize America's ports, locks and dams.

According to a statement from Alexander's office, the senator, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), has been working with a bipartisan group of senators to address major shortfalls in U.S. port and waterway infrastructure, in preparation for the 2014 completion of the expansion of the Panama Canal, which will provide the United States with more trade opportunities.

Alexander said that the legislation would nearly double the amount of money in the trust fund by doing what the lock's commercial users have requested: increase the user fees they pay. It also would remove the requirement that the Olmsted Lock on the Ohio River be funded using Inland Waterways Trust Fund revenues.

Currently the Olmsted Lock requires $147 million of the $170 million in annual funding available for inland lock construction and rehabilitation and taking it out of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund will free up revenue to address needed lock and dam repairs across the country, according to the statement.

The legislation also would:

* Provide full federal funding for maintenance of harbors up to 50 feet deep (currently it is only full funding up to 45 feet, but the Panama Canal expansion will accommodate ships with a 50-foot depth);

Establish an accounting method for revenues from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund that will allow trustees to offset annual Harbor Maintenance spending;

Speed up construction permit approval and provide states with the ability to appeal slow regulatory decision making;

Authorize a five-year construction program to expand harbors to accommodate the larger ships expected after the Panama Canal expansion; and

Fund landside infrastructure at ports.
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Publication:The Food & Fiber Letter
Date:Nov 5, 2012
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