Wicker Applauds Final Passage of Water Resources Legislation

Approval of House-Senate Agreement Coincides With Positive News at Port of Gulfport

May 26, 2014

Earlier this month, Mississippi welcomed a new addition to the Port of Gulfport. McDermott International, which serves the offshore oil and gas industry, announced it would bring its pipeline finishing operations to the East Pier and consolidate its Gulf of Mexico operations center to Gulfport. The investment is expected to create at least 100 jobs.

The news is an encouraging sign for Mississippi’s Gulf Coast as the Port of Gulfport Restoration Program continues. Although two years away from completion, the program is working to revitalize commercial activity after the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina. The arrival of McDermott is the restoration project’s first major job announcement, and I am optimistic it is only the beginning of future economic development. Like state and local officials, I support the Port of Gulfport as a valuable and dynamic resource for Mississippi and the entire Gulf Coast region. It should be utilized to its fullest potential.

More good news for the Port of Gulfport, Port of Pascagoula, and Mississippi’s many other ports in recent days is the long-awaited final passage of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The bipartisan legislation – the first of its kind in seven years – is instrumental to upgrading Mississippi’s ports, waterways, and flood-control projects. It earned overwhelming support in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

Cochran Provision Improves Port Maintenance

Ports like the Port of Pascagoula and the Port of Gulfport stand to benefit from WRDA’s reforms to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which was established for port improvements. Specifically, the bill would increase the amount of funding available for maintenance dredging, which many ports across the nation desperately need.

I am pleased that Sen. Thad Cochran was successful in equipping our ports with even more opportunities to secure maintenance upgrades. His amendment to WRDA would expand crediting authority for navigation projects, allowing more flexibility for ports like the Port of Gulfport to deepen their channels. Without timely dredging, ports risk missing out on critical trade and economic growth.

Infrastructure for Storm Protection, Flood Control

WRDA also recognizes the importance of ensuring that the Gulf Coast continues to recover from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. The legislation authorizes funding for the Mississippi Coastal Improvements Program to finish storm protection and restoration projects. Coincidentally, WRDA’s final vote in Congress nearly coincides with this year’s National Hurricane Preparedness Week, which runs May 25-31.

As Mississippians know, adequate infrastructure is crucial to minimizing the risk of damage when disaster strikes. We are certainly thankful for the flood-control mechanisms that were in place during the historic floods along the Mississippi River in 2011. WRDA would help ensure these projects are properly updated and capable of protecting lives and property.

As a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, I am proud to have worked on WRDA during its consideration in the Senate. The capabilities of our water resources are integral to the health of our economy and the future competitiveness of America’s businesses. When transportation channels are disrupted, jobs are threatened and consumers are often burdened with higher prices. WRDA represents a bipartisan commitment to navigable and reliable water resources that will sustain U.S. commerce and growth for years to come.