Legislation that would allocate $250 million to fund deep-draft harbor and channel dredging for commercial ports such as the Port of Gulfport that have been designated as “strategic” to national security won Senate approval Thursday.
U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi said the money will help the Port of Gulfport prepare to fulfill its role as one of 17 commercial ports designated as strategic to national defense. The port received a Strategic Seaport designation in November 2015.
The FY2017 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill (HR.2028), approved 90-8 on Thursday, provides $250 million for deep-draft harbor and channel dredging by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Senate bill urges the Corps of Engineers to prioritize dredging needs at commercial ports designated as “strategic.
“The Port of Gulfport is part of a network of strategic seaports that will require some work to meet the needs of the Department of Defense,” Cochran said in a press release. “This Senate bill appropriates funding to allow the Corps of Engineers to begin carrying out these dredging projects,” Cochran said.
“The excellent military facilities throughout South Mississippi make Gulfport’s designation ideal, and I look forward to it fulfilling this new seaport mission.”
The Senate bill is headed to a conference committee to develop it with provisions of a similar FY2017 legislation developed in the House. HR.2028 is first stand-alone FY2017 appropriations bill to be considered by the Senate this year.
Cochran is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and serves on the subcommittee that funds the Corps of Engineers. President Obama’s budget “severely underfunded” dredging of deep-draft harbors and channels, he said, though the senator and other supporters could be viewed as breaking pledges against supporting “earmarks.”
Cochran said with the strategic designation from the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command last November, the Port of Gulfport is positioned to provide the Defense Department with on-dock rail service and interstate access for cargo and equipment shipments, as well as deployment of U.S. forces.
The Port of Gulfport is wrapping up a $570 million restoration and expansion, which includes acquisition of inland port capabilities. The port is working with the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration to fulfill military seaport requirements and maintain commerce needs at the port, according to Cochran.
Strategic seaports need to be able to make their facilities available to the military with as little as 48 hours’ notice, and for long periods of time, if necessary.
The United States has 22 strategic seaports in total of which the Port of Gulfport and 16 others are commercial ports designated for strategic military use. MarineLink.com lists the other ports as the Ports of Anchorage, Alaska; San Diego, California; Long Beach, California; Hueneme, California; Oakland, California; Concord, California; Jacksonville, Florida; Savannah, Georgia; Morehead City, North Carolina; Wilmington, North Carolina; Sunny Point, North Carolina; Port of Port Elizabeth, New Jersey; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Charleston, South Carolina; Beaumont, Texas; Port of Port Arthur, Texas; Corpus Christi, Texas; Tacoma, Washington;; Indian Island, Washington; Norfolk, Virginia; Newport News, Virginia and Guam.
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