Once again, the leadership of the Panama Canal makes our case for us. At least 10 ports on the east coast are seeking federal dollars to deepen their harbor. We’ve quoted Roberto Aleman, the Executive Director of the Panama Canal before — but we think he is a worthy authority on the subject as the deepenings on our coast are being driven by the expansion of the Panama Canal. Aleman says “the US will have to decide which port expansions get funded… There are going to be some more efficient ports than others and there are going to be investments that are going to have to be repaid. Eventually, you have to make decisions as to which ports are going to get the money.”
In other words, we don’t need all 10, we can’t afford all 10 — and we better make sure the one that is funded is the right one. How can we know that without a birds-eye view? We need a federal evaluation of how the costs and benefits stack up. Not a fire sale to the first port with a proposal.
Kurt Nagle, head of the American Association of Port Authorities, also believes that federal taxpayers cannot afford all of the projects. Nagle acknowledges that “certainly we as an association and in the industry as a whole recognize and believe that not every port in the country needs to be at a depth to be able to accommodate the largest vessels in international trade.”
And yet, this is what the studies from the Army Corps of Engineers presume — that every single port on the east coast will be expanded. This is how the study avoids addressing the reality, which is that the government will be picking a winner. Port expansion funds come from a finite federal source, one port gets the money others will not.
Read more from Nagle and Aleman in this Georgia Public Brodcasting piece by Orlando Montoya.