Sen. James Abdnor (R-S.D.) said yesterday that he plans to drop a controversial section of the omnibus water resources bill that was expected to hold up Senate action on the bill. The bill provides federal funding for dredging Baltimore Harbor and the port at Hampton Roads, Va., an item Maryland and Virginia congressmen have fought for years to get.
Abdnor, chairman of the Senate water resources subcommittee, said at a subcommittee hearing that he believes the move will clear the way for prompt Senate action on the measure. The revised bill still would cover flood control projects and would provide for 75 percent federal funding for dredging ports. The cost of dredging Baltimore and Hampton Roads is estimated to be roughly $350 million for each port.
The major sticking point on the bill involves the issue of the nation's inland waterway system -- 25,000 miles of rivers, canals, dams and locks through which barges move goods. The administration wants barge operators to pay for much of the waterway costs through a users fee, something the barge operators strongly oppose.
Abnor said that by putting the inland waterway provisions into a different bill, "I feel we can get this passed . . . . "
"Look, when you have both the Virginia and Maryland senators supporting the bill . . . you have a broad consensus," he said, alluding to the intense rivalry between the two states over port development and shipping business.
Yesterday, Gov. Charles S. Robb announced that an Israeli-based shipping company, Zim Line, will move its mid-Atlantic port of call from Baltimore harbor to Hampton Roads this summer.
Robb said Zim's move to Hampton Roads will mean the creation of 426 jobs and $9.2 million in wages.