(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 was signed into law. 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.
“I’m very pleased to see this legislation become law so efforts can move forward to prioritize emergency dredging for Hampton-Seabrook Harbor, as well as widening the uppermost turning basin on the Piscataqua River,” said Senator Shaheen. “Our coastal community has been anxiously awaiting emergency dredging to both alleviate public safety risks and confront economic hardships for our fishermen who need access to the open waters from Hampton-Seabrook Harbor. I’ll continue to push the Army Corps of Engineers to include emergency dredging for the harbor as they finalize their work plan for 2019.”
“These mitigation efforts at Hampton-Seabrook and Portsmouth Harbors are critical to our Seacoast economy, particularly our commercial fishermen, as well as public safety,” said Senator Hassan. “I am pleased that President Trump has signed this bipartisan bill into law, and I will keep working with Senator Shaheen to make sure these projects are completed as soon as possible.”
Shaheen and Hassan have also called on the leadership of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) to 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.