Shaheen Receives Assurances From Army Nominee on Rye and Portsmouth Harbors, Leads Delegation Letter to Administration

January 16, 2020

**NH Delegation Letter to Trump Administration: “We respectfully request that you give all possible consideration to expediting the maintenance of Rye Harbor, as well as the expansion of the uppermost turning basin on the Piscataqua River”**

**In Armed Services Committee hearing, Shaheen receives assurances from Army nominee that Rye and Portsmouth harbors will be prioritized, if confirmed**

 

Senator Shaheen making calls to Hampton-Seabrook Harbor stakeholders

Today, Shaheen made calls to local stakeholders in Hampton and Seabrook to congratulate them on completion of the dredging of Hampton-Seabrook Harbor. Shaheen led federal efforts to have the Army Corps of Engineers dredge the harbor to address extreme shoaling. To download a full-sized version of this photo, click here.

(Washington, DC) –Yesterday, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) led a letter with U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Representatives Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Chris Pappas (NH-01) to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R. D. James, requesting that two critical water infrastructure projects – the Rye Harbor Maintenance Dredging Project and the Portsmouth Harbor and Piscataqua River Navigation Improvement Project – be prioritized in the Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) fiscal year (FY) 2020 Work Plan. The two agencies develop an annual work plan to address high-need projects following the implementation of government funding legislation.

The delegation wrote, “In the Granite State and the surrounding region, Rye Harbor and Portsmouth Harbor serve a tremendous value, supporting local businesses, creating jobs and ensuring public safety. However, the demand for maintenance at both of these waterways has disrupted their usability and daily operations.”

Since last being dredged in 1990, Rye Harbor has experienced significant shoaling, threatening the regional economy and public safety. Further delays to the dredging project could potentially cause the harbor to become nonfunctional.

Due to the narrow width of the uppermost turning basin on the Piscataqua River, vessels navigating the river, including liquefied petroleum gas tankers and other bulk shippers, face significant safety risks and transit restrictions, which adds additional cost to cargo shipped into the ports. The Portsmouth Harbor and Piscataqua River Navigation Improvement Project would widen the turning basin from 800 feet to 1,200 feet, which would improve navigation safety and have a beneficial effect to the economy of New Hampshire and the surrounding region.

The delegation concluded, “As your offices work to develop the FY 2020 Corps Work Plan, we respectfully request that you give all possible consideration to expediting the maintenance of Rye Harbor, as well as the expansion of the uppermost turning basin on the Piscataqua River. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.”

The delegation’s letter can be read in full here.

In a hearing today, Senator Shaheen received an assurance from the nominee to be the Under Secretary of the Army, James McPherson, that her request to prioritize critical water infrastructure projects at Rye and Portsmouth Harbors would be fulfilled, if confirmed. In response to Senator Shaheen’s questioning, McPherson informed the Committee he had already relayed Senator Shaheen’s request to senior leadership at the Army Corps of Engineers.

That exchange can be viewed here.

 

Shaheen questioning McPherson at SASC hearing

Shaheen questions McPherson on the pending projects at Rye and Portsmouth Harbors during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing 

As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Shaheen has been a fierce advocate on behalf of New Hampshire fishermen and coastal communities in Hampton and Portsmouth. Shaheen helped procure more than $7 billion for the Corps to complete necessary infrastructure projects in New Hampshire and across the country in FY 2020 funding legislation that the President signed into law in December. This is $651 million above last year’s funding level, and includes the funding necessary to begin dredging plans for Rye Harbor. Shaheen also added language to the bill that urges the Corps to expedite scheduled maintenance at small and low-use ports that have experienced unexpected levels of deterioration since their last dredging, such as Rye Harbor. Shaheen has continuously pushed for dredging at Rye Harbor, writing a letter to the Corps last October urging them to prioritize the project and touring the harbor in August to see the shoaling up close and discuss the issue with Corps officials and local fishermen. Shaheen first secured authorization for the Portsmouth Harbor and Piscataqua River Navigation Improvement Project as part of the 2016 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). Since then, she has worked with the New Hampshire congressional delegation to prioritize the project, specifically including language in the 2018 WRDA urging the Corps to expedite the project.

Shaheen previously helped procure funding for the Corps to complete necessary infrastructure projects in New Hampshire and across the country in fiscal year 2019 funding legislation that was signed into law. She specifically fought to include language in the legislation that addressed the need for emergency dredging at Hampton-Seabrook Harbor by directing the Corps to prioritize off-cycle, emergency dredging in its Work Plans. Shaheen historically led the New Hampshire delegation in calls to OMB and the Corps, repeatedly urging them to include emergency dredging in the annual Work Plan to see this project through. Last spring, Shaheen released an exclusive video showing how badly the shoaling was occurring in the harbor, underscoring the need for federal assistance to perform emergency dredging. Following her calls, the Corps included $4.6 million in their 2019 Work Plan to dredge the harbor, which has since been completed.