Virginia Policy Review May 2015 Article: “Public Policy and Our Nation’s Harbors: A Critical Time for Tough Choices”


By: J. Stanley Payne

Last year, Congress passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA), ending a seven-year drought for federal port development legislation. Industry advocates have argued the void has left the United States woefully behind in providing conduits for the massive flow of goods carried on container vessels, whose growth in size — to a capacity of 20,000 20-foot containers — defies both predictions and the imagination. America’s blessing of both a large number of ports and their rich diversity of size, purpose, and natural advantages has inevitably led to a legislative solution that, like traditional water resources bills, included a veritable menu of grants, approvals, authorizations, and opportunities. However, these piecemeal fixes also rewrote groundbreaking 1986 legislation that forever altered the financial underpinnings of our nation’s systems of ports and harbors — legislation that has since become dated in the nearly 30 years since its passage. Against a background of a months-long labor stalemate that crippled West Coast ports in 2014 and early 2015, the legislation — especially its funding schemes— came under increased scrutiny and criticism as shippers sought alternative ports, the development of which was perhaps a subtle theme throughout the bill’s development. Did the Water Resources Reform and Development Act Virginia Policy Review 85 (WRRDA) of 2014 satisfy our ports’ needs for thriving in a commercial marketplace that stretches their resources almost in lockstep with the ever-growing length of their customers’ vessels? This article aims to answer this important question.

Click here to read the full article on the Virgina Policy Review website.