The federal government has an $8 billion harbor maintenance trust fund, but only $8 million of that has allocated for spending in this year's budget.
Central New York's congressmen are calling for more of that money to be released in order to pay for upgrades to the Port of Oswego and other shipping hubs. The money isn't being spent in order to make the budget deficit look smaller, they charge.
"The lottery is supposed to go for education. Well this is supposed to go for port maintenance and right now it’s being used to cover up other parts of the deficit," said Rep. Dan Maffei, D-Syracuse. "Well that’s not fair."
Maffei and Rep. Richard Hanna, R-Barneveld, toured the Port of Oswego this week.
Port officials say they’d use extra money to dredge the port and repair the breakwall.
Maffei says spending more of the fund would be a wise investment.
"We can get the right projects going," He said. "This can be one of those areas where we can make a small investment but that will go a long way and pay real dividends in terms of jobs and the economy in the region."
The congressmen say there’s a place to raise the funding amount when the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) is taken up in the House of Representatives after summer recess. The Senate already passed its version of the bill.
The Port of Oswego has seen an increase in freight and revenue over the past few years. Much of that has been due to rail moving through the yard.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has separately been pushing for a federal Department of Transportation grant for the port to upgrade its rail operations.