Concrete piles are pounded into shallow water for a new cargo ship pier at… (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles…)
WASHINGTON--The Senate approved a bill Wednesday that would increase funding for port projects in Los Angeles and elsewhere, shore up defenses against Sandy-like superstorms and study ways to better prepare the country for more extreme weather events.
In California, the bill holds the promise of millions of additional dollars for the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which have long complained that they receive only pennies back for every dollar raised by a tax on cargo.
The $12-billion bill, approved 83 to 14 in a rare bipartisan vote, would also authorize flood protection projects and coastal restoration in such places as the Gulf Coast. It also would create a National Endowment for the Oceans, Coasts and Great Lakes to fund conservation grants.
The measure put its chief sponsor, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), at odds with her usual environmental allies who complained it would rush environmental reviews in order to speed projects.
"This bill must be fixed before the president signs it into law,’’ said Larry Schweiger, president and chief executive of the National Wildlife Federation.
But Boxer, chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said it was important to establish deadlines to prevent delays to crucial flood protection projects. She cited the bill’s support from business and labor groups.
"This is one of the broadest coalitions I have ever seen behind any piece of legislation,’’ she told colleagues.
But the bill drew opposition from taxpayer watchdog groups that said it could end up costing more than $12 billion. They objected, for example, to funding "zombie beaches,’’ shore protection projects that involve the pumping of sand onto beaches that are likely to erode again. But the bill’s proponents said such projects helped protect property from more widespread damage during Superstorm Sandy last year, saving taxpayers additional costs.
Many of the projects will be determined later based on Army Corps of Engineers’ recommendations.
The House still must approve its version of the Water Resources Development Act, and then House-Senate negotiators will work to reconcile their differences.
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