By Congresswoman Julia Brownley
Originally published in the Ventura County Star
Last week, I was pleased to announce nearly $12 million in federal funds for the dredging of the Channel Islands Harbor and $10.5 million for the Ventura Harbor dredging project. It’s a big win for Ventura County, our harbors, Hueneme Beach and Ventura County’s economy.
Since the day I was sworn in, to hours before the budget numbers were finalized, I have worked nonstop on this issue.
From meetings with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to numerous meetings with the White House, to repeated discussions with my House and Senate colleagues, to countless letters and phone calls, as promised, I left no stone unturned to find a resolution to this critical issue facing our community.
Locally, state, county and city officials also advocated tirelessly for both the dredging of the Channel Islands Harbor and sand replenishment at Hueneme Beach. An equal effort went into securing funding for Ventura Harbor. It was truly a team effort.
Why is this funding so important? Because Ventura County’s harbors and ports play a vital role to our economy.
A 2012 report showed that the Port of Hueneme created more than 9,000 jobs, produced an estimated $724 million in economic activity, and generated $63.6 million in state and local taxes.
Ventura Harbor had a total economic impact of $246 million last year, paid more than $35 million in federal and state taxes, and supported more than 2,500 jobs, including 925 of which are related to commercial and recreational fishing.
Channel Islands Harbor has 4,000 boat slips and 300 businesses, including marinas, restaurants, offices, boatyards, and boat storage.
Across the nation, our ports handle 80 percent of our foreign trade, which supports more than 13 million jobs annually.
Despite the clear economic benefit ports and harbors provide, the Army Corps of Engineers has estimated that the harbors that handle about 90 percent of the commercial traffic are dredged to their authorized depths and widths only about 35 percent of the time. This lack of dredging and regular maintenance is projected to cost our country over $1 trillion in lost economic opportunity over the next decade.
In the past, Republicans and Democrats alike supported federal investments in infrastructure because we all knew a failing infrastructure would lead to a failing economy, a deterioration of our global competitiveness and loss of jobs.
But today’s Republican-controlled House is led by a tea party faction that believes government can’t do anything right, and probably shouldn’t do anything at all. They repeatedly block even the most obvious needs of our nation.
The tea party has not only objected to adequately investing in our infrastructure, but they have shut down the government, threatened to default on the nation’s debt, and blocked immigration reform (which both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and organized labor agree would dramatically grow our economy).
They have also refused to collaborate on a women’s economic agenda, which would include raising the minimum wage and passing equal pay for equal work legislation — both supported by the majority of the American people, and both necessary to pull millions of women and children out of poverty.
In Ventura County, our elected leaders, on both sides of the aisle, came together to solve a problem that we all knew needed to be solved. By the same token, the American people want Congress to work together to solve our nation’s problems. In the House, I believe the majority of both my Democratic and Republican colleagues want the same.
And yet, House Speaker John Boehner continues to allow the tea party to control the agenda. It needs to stop. For the sake of the country, he needs to rein them in and allow the will of the House to be heard. We need to focus on the important issues and get back to the business of investing in our economy, jobs and our future.