By Jess Levenson
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England
AMHERST, Mass. - While the New England coastline represents a scant 7-percent of the total coastline in the United States it, according to a 2010 study conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, contributes nearly 20 percent of the total national economic benefits for fisheries from “small ports and harbors with healthy commerce that positively impacts local communities” -- from goods and services to recreation and tourism; from dredging Federal navigation channels to partnering with stakeholders to engage in open environmental and regulatory public processes to identify and implement solutions.
Nationally, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers navigation program is responsible for providing safe, reliable, cost-effective, and environmentally sustainable waterborne transportation systems for the movement of commercial goods and for national security needs. The program seeks to meet this responsibility through a combination of capital improvements and the operation and maintenance of existing infrastructure projects.
“The Maritime industry in New England is a crucial component of the region’s economic and cultural identity,” said Ed O’Donnell, Chief of the New England District’s Navigation Branch. “Maritime industries are positively tied to the region’s unique heritage, distinctive physical setting, and geographic location. Dredging and infrastructure improvement are required in order to maintain and preserve their businesses and economic viability and are also critical to future growth of the existing industries.”
Smaller projects in New England coastal communities make significant contributions to the local economy. These projects support various maritime services including, harboring local fishing fleets, vessel repair facilities, marina facilities, recreational boating and rentals, fuel sales, mooring rentals and fish and lobster processing and resale. Additionally, the harbors tie directly into the tourist economy with lodging and specific local accommodations, including restaurants and dry goods. Lastly, these federally maintained waterways not only provide a critical link for the Coast Guard, and for commercial and private vessels to navigate around hazardous or inconvenient channels, the small ports and harbors typically provide good paying jobs and increase the local tax-base.
The American Society of Civil Engineers agrees and supports a national program to maintain and improve ports, harbors, and waterways as an essential and sustainable component of the economic and environmental well-being of the nation. Such a national program includes: a dedicated source of funding for the maintenance and improvement of ports, harbors, and waterways, and streamlining the environmental regulatory process for improving ports, harbors and waterways. The President’s proposed Fiscal Year 2015 national budget for coastal navigation provides $991 million, mostly for project maintenance to facilitate the efficient movement by water of commercial cargo, including $915 million that is eligible for reimbursement from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.
“Although many smaller projects provide relatively limited benefits when compared with some larger projects nationally, those benefits accrue over much longer time periods before maintenance dredging is needed, making annual maintenance cost quite low,” said O’Donnell. “The longer interval between maintenance cycles, the lower the annual maintenance cost. Overall, the cost in maintaining small harbors pales in comparison to what is accomplished by keeping them in condition to help local communities.”
Interactive maps and detailed information on the economics, ecosystems and communities is available on the NOAA State of the Coast website http://stateofthecoast.noaa.gov/.