What does it take to get the attention of Washington these days? Throw a rock through a window at the White House? Paint the Capitol steps neon orange?
It appears that way. Nothing else seems to work, not even potentially dangerous waterways for the large vessels that bring goods to U.S. shores and transport products made in America to distant lands.
You know shallowing depth is a serious issue when the executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, Curtis Foltz, implores community leaders during a State of the Port of Brunswick address to remind the men who represent the coast and the state in Congress that the condition of the harbor channel is getting more critical by the week. Harbor pilots are already warning shipping companies to expect delays.
Funding is needed for routine maintenance and to undo damage caused the channel by tropical storms earlier this summer.
Most everyone in the country is keenly aware of the desperate funding issues facing the federal government, which is trillions of dollars in debt. But the harbor pays for itself.
Millions of dollars in fees paid by vessels calling on the port are supposed to go to harbor maintenance, but they’re not. U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, whose district includes Georgia’s only two deepwater ports, says it’s being raked into the government’s general fund along with everything else. That leaves smaller ports like Brunswick just flat out of luck.
Kingston is trying to rectify the situation. He’s leading the charge to pass the Realize America’s Maritime Promise Act. Its objective is to remind Congress to keep its mitts off funds designated for harbor maintenance. The congressman from Savannah estimates some $8 million is generated by the fund. That would be more than enough to pay the $6 million needed to return the channel to its proper depth.
Don’t bet the family farm on the measure getting anywhere, not when Congress is threatening to cut everything from defense to entitlement programs.
Somehow, some way, though, Kingston and Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson must get their colleagues to understand the dangers of doing nothing while the channels to international trade literally fill up with silt. It’s happening now and it will only be worse tomorrow without the funds that belong to the ports.