Infrastructure: Priority Number One!
8 Marine Log // December 2016
Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) did provide some funding for Kentucky Lock and a few other smaller scale projects. Last December, Congress passed a fiveyear, $305 billion bill to extend the Highway program. Within the inland waterways, we estimate that only around $8 billion (or 38.5 times less than what was spent on the highway program for just five years!) would be
The waterways are the lifeblood of the American farmer and we need NESP now.
needed to modernize 24 priority navigation projects across the country, work which will otherwise take the next two decades. In the new Administration and Congress, WCI will continue its work to ensure an optimal level of federal support and funding for the planning, construction, operations, and maintenance of ports and inland waterways navigation improvements of national importance. Inland waterways remain an integral part of the transportation supply chain, and certainly must be considered along with truck and rail modes. The waterways promote vast economic, societal and environmental benefits to the entire Nation. Ahead, WCI will continue to press for
Michael J. Toohey President/CEO, Waterways Council, Inc.
fter one of the most grueling, and some would say gruesome, elections in American history, we congratulate Donald Trump as the next President. And we welcome the incoming Congress to Washington, DC, where we expect to work with each of you to modernize the critical lock and dam infrastructure. So much of what Waterways Council, Inc. (WCI) does is to educate in order to ensure public awareness of the vital and integral role of a modern and well-maintained system of navigable ports and inland waterways in meeting the Nation’s infrastructure needs. WCI also works to ensure sound federal policy and funding to maintain and enhance the waterways system to meet the transportation needs of the U.S. now and in the future. By the year 2040, 29 billion tons of additional freight is expected to move in the U.S., with 10% of it on the waterways. President-elect Trump and Congress have their work cut out for them, as they wrangle with global issues. But our domestic needs must occupy their work right out of the block, in the first 100 days, and that means transportation infrastructure investment. Candidate Trump had discussed an infrastructure spending package that might include a national infrastructure bank or loan guarantee programs to get transportation projects moving, to create jobs and to stimulate the economy. In 2009, President Obama was successful in passing his $840 billion stimulus plan, but only $105 billion was devoted to infrastructure, with only $450 million or .05% of that going to lock and dam funding. Stimulus funding through the American Recovery and
full-use, each year, of the revenues deposited into the Inland Waterways Trust Fund for construction and major rehabilitation of priority capital investment projects. That also means seeking and achieving optimal funding levels for Operations & Maintenance (O&M) for both inland waterways and ports from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund or General Fund of the Treasury, as appropriate. Among our specific priorities is to obtain funding for Pre-Construction Engineering and Design (PED) for authorized priority projects, especially for the Navigation & Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP). NESP is a unique, dual-purpose program that combines two key mission areas of the Corps of Engineers—navigation and ecosystem/ environmental restoration—and modernizes navigation capacity while at the same time improving eco-habitats along our rivers. As one Illinois farmer concerned with sustainability recently told WCI, “the waterways are the lifeblood of the American farmer and we need NESP now.” WCI will also continue to oppose the imposition of new taxes, tolls or fees on the inland transportation system that would be offered by the Administration, including as a means to finance Public-Private Partnerships (P3s). WCI remains open to properly structured P3s that make sense, not ones that overly burden waterways operators and shippers and drive traffic off the rivers. An October 24, 2016 Agri-Pulse article, “The Prickly Political Path for New Infrastructure Investments,” by Ed Maixner, wisely points out that “infrastructure financing alternatives must go beyond the P3s concept and ensure that more beneficiaries help pay for the infrastructure, says Nicholas Pansic, Vice President of the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure. He serves as Secretary for an initiative of the Coasts, Oceans, Ports and Rivers Institute (part of ASCE) to discover and promote new schemes to pay for infrastructure. WCI offers its welcome to Washington. Now let’s get to work and make America’s Rivers Great Again!