Port officials have launched a heavy lobbying push to get Congress to boost fiscal year 2015 spending for dredging and other improvements. They want appropriators to approve spending that roughly equals the hike authorized in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, or WRRDA, signed in June.

The campaign, led by the American Association of Port Authorities, seeks about $1.17 billion in 2015 spending from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund—that's up from the $1.07 billion appropriated in 2014. WRRDA sets annually increasing trust-fund spending "targets," starting, in 2015, at 67% of harbor- maintenance tax receipts; that share would be about $1.2 billion. The 2025 target is 100% of receipts. But WRRDA funding, including the harbor-fund provision, requires annual appropriations.

The AAPA and its allies in the "Hit the HMT Target" campaign are focusing on an appropriations measure to follow the current stopgap that funds the government until Dec. 11. Top appropriators have talked about an omnibus package. It could run through next September. Lawmakers would negotiate line-item sums, including the harbor fund spend-out. However, a further stopgap is another possibility.

As of Oct. 6, 372 ports, companies, associations and unions had signed AAPA's letter urging Congress to increase the trust fund's spending. AAPA officials want to get that message to lawmakers soon, knowing that many other groups will be making pitches to raise spending in other areas. Jim Walker, AAPA director of navigation policy and legislation, says, "We've got to be ready because I know there's going to be a lot of 'asks.' "

Differing Numbers

The House has passed a 2015 energy-water appropriations bill, including $1.17 billion for harbor-fund spending; a Senate subcommittee's version has $1.06 billion. An industry source says there's a good chance the final 2015 number will hit the campaign's $1.17-billion goal but adds, "After FY15 is another matter."