The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) received a green light to find ways to improve U.S. port infrastructure with the release of President Obama’s budget for fiscal year 2015 (FY15). It includes $4.561 billion in gross discretionary funding for USACE’s Civil Works program which is dedicated to commercial navigation, flood and coastal storm damage reduction, and aquatic ecosystem restoration.
"This is a performance-based budget that funds the construction of projects that provide the greatest returns on the Nation's Civil Works investments for the economy, environment and public safety," said Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works.
New Federal funding in the Civil Works budget consists of $3.517 billion from the general fund, $915 million from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, $85 million from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, and $44 million from Special Recreation User Fees.
The FY15 Investigations program is funded at $80 million. It funds completion of 34 studies and designs, including 15 ecosystem restoration studies, 10 flood risk management studies, and nine navigation studies.
Among the navigation studies is investigation of deepening the federal channel and harbor area of Port Manatee, in Palmetto, Fla., near the entrance to Tampa Bay. It is regarded as the closest U.S. deepwater seaport to the expanding Panama Canal, and one of three new deep-draft navigation studies nationwide. Manatee Harbor presently has a 40-foot depth. Port Manatee serves bulk, breakbulk, container, heavylift, project and general cargo customers.
“Reaching our target harbor depth of 45 feet should enable us to accommodate the majority of vessels transiting the expanded Panama Canal,” said Dave Sanford, Port Manatee’s deputy executive director.