For AmericAn Good Whoever said nothing gets done in our nation’s capital has not met Senate Environment & Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ranking Member David Vitter (R-LA), who successfully, collaboratively, and in a bi-partisan manner drafted, managed and passed a long-overdue Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), S. 601 on May 15 by a vote of 83-14. Others who should be commended for their action to include several provisions of the RIVER (Reinvesting In Vital Economic Rivers and Waterways) Act, S. 407 to help modernize America’s inland navigation system, are Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS). The final Senate WRDA bill contained critically important provisions related to the modernization of inland waterways lock and dam infrastructure, as 57% of locks and dams have far exceeded their economic design life expectancy.
Of specific interest to inland waterways stakeholders, the final Senate WRDA bill approved a measure to remove the overbudget and long-delayed Olmsted lock and dam project from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF), the remainder of the cost to be paid 100% by general treasury revenue and not cost-shared 50-50 through the IWTF. This action would free up around $750 million to the IWTF to complete critical priority navigation projects. The threshold for major rehabilitation was increased, from the current $14 million to $20 million, in the Senate bill. Other Senate bill provisions of note to the inland waterways are prioritization of navigation projects and revamping of project delivery processes to achieve on time and within budget performance, ensuring that future Corps’ estimates for project costs have a confidence level of at least 80%, and increasing funding for inland port dredging to be released from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. Not included in the Senate WRDA bill
Michael J. Toohey, President/CEO, Waterways Council, Inc.
is the industry-supported provision to increase the diesel fuel user fee. The Constitution requires that revenue enhancement measures originate in the House of Representatives, so this provision must originate in the House version of WRDA or be added to some other revenue measure. So now it is on to the House, where we expect to see WRDA action within the Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee led by Chairman Bill Shuster sometime between now and the fall. The recent collapse of the Farm Bill is a cautionary tale to take time to get it right. In the T&I Committee, 47% of Members are freshmen who may know little about the waterways or a WRDA bill and the process to move a bill. WCI remains hopeful and has faith in Congress to do what must be done: move a WRDA bill that is good for the nation, for jobs, for exports, for the environment, and for traffic congestion relief—one that is good for America. Visit www.waterwayscouncil.org.
America’s inland waterways will get a boost from the Water Resources Development Act and the RIVER Act
6 MARINE LOG August 2013