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Sen. Landrieu calls for greater investment in N.O. port system

27th January 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Michael Patrick Welch
Contributing Writer

Louisiana Senator Mary Land­rieu was in New Orleans on January 21 to tour the Port of New Orleans, check out improvements to the Napoleon Street container terminal, and to remind the press of the port’s importance and its impact on the city and region. Landrieu toured the port “from stem to stern,” meaning from New Orleans’s cruise ship terminal to the container terminal where the press conference was held.

“The five ports of Baton Rouge make up the largest port system in the entire world,” said Landrieu over the loud sound of cold wind, stressing the importance of the Port of New Orleans in regards to international trade as well as local jobs.

The port, Landrieu reminded the small group gathered at the container terminal, handles bulk shipping, agricultural shipping and petrochemicals among other important duties. The port’s cruise ship terminal is also an essential engine of the local economy, said Landrieu. A 2013 Brookings Institution report showed New Orleans to be one of the fastest centers of export growth in the nation.

Landrieu spoke of a November 2013 visit to the port by President Barack Obama as part of his tour to push job-creation by building, repairing and expanding America’s infrastructure. At that event the president called exports one of our economy’s most fruitful areas.

“One of the things we should be focused on is helping more businesses sell more products to the rest of the world, and the only way those products get out is through facilities like [the Port of New Orleans],” said Obama.

To that end, Landrieu pushed the idea of additional dredging in the Mississippi River, an issue currently in conference committee. Landrieu says she is fighting to make sure that the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund is spent on the harbor, and in particular to dredge the river. “It is currently at 45-feet deep,” said Landrieu, “and we need a depth of about 50 feet.”

The project, she said, would cost $350 million (a figure of $50 million more than originally reported), and then another $90-to-$100 million annually to maintain. Landrieu assured the crowd the investment would be worth it for the increased number of larger ships that could, as a result, safely navigate the port. “It sounds like a lot of money, and there are many in Washington who don’t want to spend any money. Water projects have been starved by this, in my opinion,” said Landrieu, “But you can’t get out of a recession with cuts. We must invest in our ports.” A recent study by Timothy Ryan, Ph.D. found that for every dollar spent, the project would create $89.4 in benefits.

Landrieu also discussed her role as a cardinal chair of the Senate’s Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee. Since 2011, Land­rieu has helped secure $100 million for Port Security Grants, of which the Port of New Orleans received $45 million over the past several years, Landrieu stated. Improvements at the terminal have also been partially funded by a $16.7 million Transportation In­vest­ment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Grant from the U.S. Department of Trans­port­ation. TIGER is a supplementary dis­cretionary grant program in­clud­ed in the American Recov­ery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that provides $1.5 billion for a National Surface Transportation System.

When asked, on a side note, about Senator David Vitter’s re­cently announced run for Louisiana Governor, Landrieu solemnly said she hopes for candidates who will “work for the economic good of the state, and are not just out to promote their political interests, which I think is what Jindal has done.”

This article originally published in the January 27, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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