Our Views: Good step for ports

If Louisiana has a particular interest in any legislation on water projects, the general interest of the United States, as well as our own state’s interests, appears to be served by the new water projects bill.

While the entire Louisiana delegation in Congress deserves commendation for support of the measure, a leading role was played by U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La. As the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, he worked on the bill and was the lone Louisiana representative on the House-Senate conference committee that produced the final bill.

It clearly bears at least some of Vitter’s handiwork, as he has been a longtime critic of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the water bill bears many specific injunctions to the Corps on water development.

There is also authorization for the Morganza-to-the-Gulf hurricane protection project for coastal Louisiana.

It’s also a good sign that Congress — so tragically divided over policy and personalities — can get together to pass anything. So Vitter and colleagues had to exercise a healthy bit of compromise. Those muscles are atrophying for lack of use these days.

Further, it’s worth noting that an authorizing bill is not the same thing as a funding bill, so eventually appropriations will be needed to fund the projects. But the authorizations are likely to lead to action and in the case of the nation’s ports, it’s a key issue.

Both parties are interested in foreign trade, from President Barack Obama to House Republicans, with the leading dissents being from national unions.

Yet the president’s goal of doubling American trade is not possible if the nation fails to maintain its ports, railroads and highways — all expensive propositions.

The new bill “gives us the green light to maintain our ports, dredge our waterways and build the critical water infrastructure we need to create jobs and to protect the people and communities that power our nation’s economy,” said U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.

Following up on a cause championed in the House by U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, the bill frees up more money, misdirected for years in the federal budget, to be spent on ports and dredging.

This involves no tax increase, but uses the money collected in cargo fees but misdirected in recent budgets.

Trade is a big issue, but water development is one of the elements in growing the nation — and Louisiana — economically.

“More than one in five jobs in the United States is supported by trade,” Boustany noted. “In Louisiana alone, over 400,000 jobs are supported by trade.”

That is the reason we hope to see continued support in our delegation for the Port of New Orleans and the many other important ports in Louisiana, and the new water bill helps that longterm process along with its provisions.