New spending bill funds port dredging and airport towers
By By Kevin Rector and The Baltimore Sun
Jan 17, 2014 | 7:43 PM
A $1 trillion spending bill passed by Congress late Thursday — averting another shutdown by funding the government through October — directs tens of millions of dollars to the port of Baltimore and will keep airport control towers open across the state.
The port funding, about $60 million, consists mostly of appropriations for dredging projects. The bill includes about $21 million for the Coast Guard Yard at Curtis Bay.
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat who helped steer the bill as chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, called the legislation an "investment in the lives and livelihoods of those who depend on clean and open waterways" that will "keep businesses open and keep people working."
Of the $60 million, Mikulski's office said about $22.5 million will go toward annual maintenance of the port of Baltimore's 50-foot-deep shipping channels, which are considered crucial to the port's success as larger ships begin moving through an expanding Panama Canal.
About $18.9 million will go to dredging in the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, used by ships traveling north from Baltimore, and about $18.4 million will go toward continuing efforts to use dredged material to rebuild Poplar Island into an environmental habitat.
About $325,000 will be used to remove trash and debris from the port's shipping lanes.
The spending bill, which awaits signature by President Barack Obama, also provides $140 million to fund 149 air traffic control towers under federal contract across the country, including five in Maryland.
The towers faced closure under the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration.
The bill will keep open the control towers at Martin State Airport, Salisbury-Ocean City Wicomico Regional Airport, and airports in Easton, Frederick and Hagerstown.
Mikulski said the funding for towers also saves jobs.