Shaheen, Hassan & Shea-Porter Priorities to Address Mitigation Efforts at Hampton & Portsmouth Unveiled in Final Version of Water Infrastructure Bill

September 12, 2018

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) issued the following statements after the final version of the bipartisan America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 was announced following Senate and House negotiations. The biennial legislation authorizes water infrastructure projects around the country, and Shaheen and Hassan helped secure approval of mitigation efforts at Hampton and Portsmouth Harbors.

“Without emergency dredging of Hampton Harbor, access to open waters for New Hampshire fishermen and the safety of those using the harbor are at risk. That’s why I’ve repeatedly called on the Army Corps of Engineers to prioritize this project, as well as the expansion of the turning basin in Portsmouth Harbor to facilitate large cargo ships traveling in and out of the area. These are significant concerns for our region, and I will continue to push Congress and the administration to address the needs of our coastal communities,” said Shaheen. “This is about keeping our harbors safe and protecting our Seacoast economy, and I won’t stop fighting until these projects are finished. I’m very pleased today’s legislation includes these critical New Hampshire priorities and I look forward to this bill becoming law.”

“Severe sand shoaling at Hampton Harbor is making it more difficult for boats to navigate in and out of the harbor, hurting the fishing industry and economic development on the Seacoast,” said Hassan. “This bipartisan bill, which includes measures Senator Shaheen and I pushed for to strengthen Hampton and Portsmouth Harbors, is critical for the safety of our people and the vitality of our Seacoast economy.”  

“The narrowing and shoaling of Hampton Harbor has made the water so shallow that it will soon become unnavigable, threatening to close this vital lifeline to the ocean and making navigation of the harbor dangerous,” said Shea-Porter. “We must ensure that both Hampton and Portsmouth harbors remain open for our fishermen, and all those that depend on these critical waterways. Hampton Harbor is our largest commercial fishing port. Portsmouth Harbor is the only deep draft harbor in New Hampshire; it is the port of entry for 20% of New Hampshire’s energy; and it is home to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, making the Piscataqua River vital to both our economy and national security. These projects are essential to our region, and I am pleased that the amendments I passed through the House are moving forward in the final bill.”

Addressing the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) leadership earlier this year, Shaheen and Hassan requested the Committee support emergency dredging at Hampton Harbor and the Portsmouth Harbor & Piscataqua River Navigation Improvement Project. Shaheen and Hassan’s letter can be read here. In June, Shea-Porter passed two amendments to the Water Resources Development Act, the House version of American’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, which would allow the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge Hampton and Portsmouth Harbors.

The final America’s Water Infrastructure Act includes the language secured by Shaheen, Hassan, and Shea-Porter that would permit emergency dredging for Hampton Harbor. Significant shoaling at Hampton has caused sand to pile high enough to prevent boats from exiting and entering the harbor at low tides. For Portsmouth Harbor, the current 800-foot width of the turning basin on the Piscataqua River is a safety concern for large cargo ships. Their provision will permit the basin to be widened by 400 feet, which will allow for broader use of area ports, improve navigational safety and provide an economic boost for New Hampshire and the region. In addition to Congressional approval, these mitigation efforts would need to be included in the Army Corps of Engineers’ (the Corps) work plan.

Additionally, Senator Shaheen successfully added language to the final bill to require the Corps to adhere to existing law requiring the regular release of a project report detailing all authorized Corps projects around the nation. Shaheen’s reporting requirement compels the Corps to issue the annual Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Report to improve transparency so that Congress and the public are aware of all ongoing projects, including the status, funding levels and other relevant information on all Corps infrastructure priorities.

Senators Shaheen and Hassan have been fierce advocates on behalf of New Hampshire fishermen and coastal communities in Hampton and Portsmouth. In March, the New Hampshire delegation called on the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James to include emergency dredging for Hampton Harbor in the OMB and the Corps’ fiscal year 2018 work plan. The New Hampshire delegation has repeatedly called for the Corps to dredge Hampton Harbor. Shaheen toured Hampton Harbor in the spring and released an exclusive video showing how badly the shoaling is occurring in the harbor, underscoring the need for federal assistance to perform emergency dredging.