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2000 Policy Positions
of the Southern Legislative Conference

3. POLICY POSITION ON THE MAINTENANCE OF DEEPWATER PORTS AND INLAND WATERWAYS


BACKGROUND

It is well known that 25,000 miles of inland waterways and the nation’s deepwater ports are a vital component of the U.S. economy, with 95 percent of the nation’s foreign commerce flowing through deepwater ports and 61 percent of all United States imports and 63 percent of all U.S. exports flowing through a port located in a Southern state. In addition, more than 460,000 jobs in the South are dependent upon the region’s inland waterway system, but with the locks having an average age of over 50, this creates an inefficient, antiquated system that cannot adequately accommodate commercial traffic. The structural condition of some of the locks is such that, if not soon replaced, the locks will have to be closed, eliminating navigation on important segments of our inland waterways. The most urgently needed lock replacement and repair projects are located in the South.

The systematic maintenance of the nation’s deepwater ports and inland waterways is necessary to ensure that these shipping channels are able to accommodate the growing level of imports and exports that are shipped via the waterways. As all Americans benefit from the maintenance of the nation’s ports and waterways through lower product costs, increased employment, flood control, recreational use and environmental protection, it should properly fall to the federal government to uphold its historic responsibility to maintain inland waterways and ship channels. However, the funding mechanism to maintain and improve deepwater ports has been affected by a U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), and user fees or taxes to replace the HMTF could cause a diversion of cargo to non-U.S. ports or price U.S. exports out of international markets.

RECOMMENDATION

The Southern Legislative Conference of The Council of State Governments urges the Administration and Congress to ensure that the nation’s inland waterways and deepwater port shipping channels are adequately maintained and improved so that the nation’s waterborne commerce continues to move efficiently. Furthermore, the Conference urges that the replacement of antiquated locks on the nation’s inland waterways should be made a priority, as these waterways not only handle commercial traffic but also provide flood control, recreational use and environmental protection to millions of Americans. And furthermore, the Conference recommends that Congress and the Administration provide adequate annual appropriations for the maintenance and improvement of our ports and waterway system.


Adopted by the Southern Legislative Conference, August 8, 2000, Biloxi, MS

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