(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) issued the following statements after the bipartisan America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 passed the Senate 99-1. The biennial legislation authorizes water infrastructure projects around the country, and Shaheen and Hassan helped secure approval of mitigation efforts at Hampton-Seabrook and Portsmouth Harbors. The legislation will now head to the President’s desk to be signed into law, having passed both chambers.
“The shoaling of Hampton-Seabrook Harbor is so extreme that it has started to threaten the welfare of our fishermen and the sustainability of our Seacoast economy. As it has become increasingly more difficult for vessels to navigate the harbor, public safety and accessibility to and from the open water have become serious concerns – that’s why I’ve repeatedly fought to push forward on emergency dredging,” said Shaheen. “I’m glad to share that this legislation prioritizes emergency dredging for Hampton-Seabrook Harbor, as well as widening the uppermost turning basin on the Piscataqua River to address similar navigation safety issues. I urge the President to act quickly and sign this bill into law so efforts can move forward to deliver much-needed relief to New Hampshire’s coastal community.”
“Funding for mitigation efforts at Hampton-Seabrook and Portsmouth Harbors will help ensure the safety and vitality of our Seacoast,” said Hassan. “If fishermen cannot get their boats out to the open water, our coastal communities and small businesses will suffer, which could create a ripple effect throughout our state. I am pleased that the measures Senator Shaheen and I pushed for were included in the passage of this bipartisan bill and I am eager to see it become law.”
Addressing the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) leadership earlier this year, Shaheen and Hassan requested the Committee support emergency dredging at Hampton-Seabrook Harbor and the Portsmouth Harbor & Piscataqua River Navigation Improvement Project. Shaheen and Hassan’s letter can be read here.
The final America’s Water Infrastructure Act includes the language secured by Shaheen and Hassan that would permit emergency dredging for Hampton-Seabrook Harbor. Significant shoaling at Hampton-Seabrook has caused sand to pile high enough to prevent boats from exiting and entering the harbor at low tides. For Portsmouth Harbor, the current 800-foot width of the turning basin on the Piscataqua River is a safety concern for large cargo ships. Their provision will permit the basin to be widened by 400 feet, which will allow for broader use of area ports, improve navigational safety and provide an economic boost for New Hampshire and the region. In addition to Congressional approval, these mitigation efforts would need to be included in the Army Corps of Engineers’ (the Corps) work plan.
Additionally, Senator Shaheen successfully added language to the final bill to require the Corps to adhere to existing law requiring the regular release of a project report detailing all authorized Corps projects around the nation. Shaheen’s reporting requirement compels the Corps to issue the annual Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Report to improve transparency so that Congress and the public are aware of all ongoing projects, including the status, funding levels and other relevant information on all Corps infrastructure priorities.
Senators Shaheen and Hassan have been fierce advocates on behalf of New Hampshire fishermen and coastal communities in Hampton and Portsmouth. In September, the New Hampshire delegation called on the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James to include emergency dredging for Hampton-Seabrook Harbor in the OMB and the Corps’ fiscal year 2019 work plan. The New Hampshire delegation has repeatedly called for the Corps to dredge Hampton-Seabrook Harbor. Shaheen toured Hampton-Seabrook Harbor in the spring and released an exclusive video showing how badly the shoaling is occurring in the harbor, underscoring the need for federal assistance to perform emergency dredging.