Maine’s Navy shipyards, defense contractors and potato growers, among others, will likely benefit from defense and budget bills by Congress this week during the final days of the turbulent, often unproductive 2013-14 session.

The Senate passed a $585 billion defense bill on Friday afternoon that authorizes spending on Defense Department programs around the globe — including ship- and aircraft-manufacturing programs located in Maine — for 2015. The bill, which passed the House last week, also includes some non-defense items, such as a lands package authorizing a study of whether the York River should become part of the National Park Service’s Wild and Scenic River program.

The Senate to pass a $1.1 trillion spending bill — despite opposition from both progressives and conservatives — that would fund most of the federal government through next summer and avoid a shutdown beginning Saturday night.

• More than $3 billion for Navy destroyers built at BIW

The defense bill contains $2.7 billion for two new DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, one of which will be built at Bath Iron Works, as well as $419 million in additional funding for the DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class destroyers under construction at BIW. With roughly 5,600 employees, BIW is one of the largest employers in Maine and spent an estimated $64 million with more than 340 Maine companies in 2014, according to shipyard officials.

“Thousands of Mainers, like those at BIW, work hard day in and day out to support our country’s national security and defense mission,” Sen. Angus King, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. “This bill is a continued investment in their work as well as a recognition that they will play a fundamental role as our armed forces confront threats across the globe and protect our interests at home.”


BIW is one of two private shipyards that build Navy destroyers and is in the midst of a work boom, with five destroyers currently under construction in the yard. The USS Zumwalt — the first of three “stealth” destroyers — is docked at BIW’s pier as crews complete work on the more than $3 billion ship before taking it out for at-sea trials next year. Another Zumwalt-class, as well as an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, are being assembled nearby in the outdoor yard.

• Victory for potato growers

After a years-long fight, potatoes are back on the menu of a major federal nutritional program.

Since 2009, fresh white potatoes have been excluded from the list of eligible fruits and vegetables within the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Supporters of the potato exclusion argue that Americans regularly eat potatoes and WIC dollars should encourage low-income women and children to increase the amount of other fruits and vegetables in their diets. Nearly 9 million people received WIC assistance last year.

But members of Congress from potato-growing states — such as Maine, Idaho and Colorado — have fought every year alongside the national potato lobby to reverse a USDA spud snub that they contend is not based on nutritional science. The $1.1 trillion appropriations bill expected to receive final passage in the Senate this week would allow WIC participants to purchase fresh, white potatoes along with all other fresh vegetables immediately upon enactment of the bill.

“USDA’s decision ought to be driven by nutritional facts and food science,” Republican Sen. Susan Collins, an Aroostook County native heavily involved in the potato policy dispute, said earlier this week. “In that kind of review, the fresh, white potato wins, hands down. The potato has more potassium than bananas, a food commonly associated with this nutrient, which is important for pregnant women and new mothers. Potatoes are cholesterol-free, fat-free and sodium-free, and can be prepared in countless healthy ways.”


The National WIC Association expressed disappointment that the bill mandates potatoes’ inclusion in the nutritional program.

• Fighter jet funding

The defense bill also includes $6 billion for 38 additional F-35 Joint Strike Fighter planes.

Several Maine-based defense contractors supply parts for the F-35. Workers at the Pratt & Whitney’s 877,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in North Berwick make engine components for the F-35 Lightning II, which is the next-generation fighter to be used by the Navy, Air Force and Marines.

Additionally, General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems in Saco, Fairchild Semiconductor in South Portland and Hunting Dearborn Inc. in Fryeburg make parts for the F-35.

The bill also contains $498 million for F-15 and F-16 engines made with components from Pratt & Whitney. According to the offices of King and Collins, 25 percent of the parts for the engines will be built at Pratt & Whitney’s Maine facility.


Other Maine-related elements in the bill include: $32 million for a new National Guard/Reserve Center Joint Force Headquarters in Augusta; $8.4 million for Common Remotely Operated Weapons Stations that are partly built in Biddeford, South Paris and Arundel.

• ‘Wild and scenic’ York River?

One of the non-defense items included in this year’s budget bill is a public lands package dealing largely with national parks and wilderness areas. But tucked into the lands package is language authorizing a three-year study of whether to include Maine’s York River in the National Wild and Scenic River program.

A group of southern Maine residents has been pushing to make the York River a “partnership river” within the federal program aimed at protecting free-flowing rivers that are deemed to have “outstanding natural, cultural and recreational values.” The designation means the river would be managed through a partnership of local communities, state government and the National Park Service and could open the door for additional federal funding for projects such as fish and wildlife habitat restoration. Designation does not prohibit development along the river corridor or give the federal government control over private property.

The House has twice passed bills sponsored by Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, to authorize the federal study. King has requested that his Senate bill be included in the bipartisan lands package tacked onto the defense bill.

“In Congress you don’t always get something through the first time and you just have to go back and try again,” Pingree said in a statement on Friday. “That’s what we had to do with this bill and persistence seems to be paying off. The next big step is community-wide involvement in this process and to see what this study ultimately finds.”

The Allagash Wilderness Waterway is the only river in Maine designated as a Wild and Scenic River. The Allagash has a higher classification within the program that subjects development to more scrutiny.

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