Wait Over for WRDA
8 Marine Log // December 2018
the system during operations. As you may recall, back in 2014, WCI fought successfully to raise the amount of investment into the inland waterways system by proposing a 45% increase to the diesel fuel tax inland operators pay, from $.20-cents-per-gallon to the current fee of $.29-cents-per-gallon. That revenue goes into the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) to pay for half
The passage was a win for the nation’s lock and dam infrastructure, and other water resources programs of the cost of lock construction and major rehab on the system, and is matched by Federal dollars recognizing the waterways benefits to all Americans. The America’s Water Infrastructure Act/WRDA bill also authorizes 12 Chief ’s Reports, including one that will be funded by the IWTF in Three Rivers in Arkansas. The bill also authorizes three project cost-ceiling modifications, including for the fourth priority navigation project, Chickamauga Lock on the Tennessee River. The bill also directs the Secretary of the Army to have the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) evaluate the current organizational structure of the Corps of Engineers’
Michael J. Toohey President/CEO, Waterways Council, Inc.
Shutterstock/ Karla Caspari
n the heels of the September passage and signing into law of the FY19 Energy & Water Appropriations bill that funds the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, on October 23, the President signed into law “America’s Water Infrastructure Act.” This legislation included the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2018, an important water resources policy bill which authorizes Corps of Engineers’ work on locks and dams, dredging and other water projects. The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 99 to 1 on October 10, with the House passing the WRDA legislation by voice vote in September. Waterways Council, Inc. (WCI) and its members hailed the America’s Water Infrastructure Act/ WRDA bill for what was NOT included there for as much as what WAS. The bill did not include authorization language to allow for lockage fees and/or tolls on the inland waterways system’s locks. WCI continues to oppose additional taxation, tolling, lockage fees or adverse changes in cost-sharing for the Inland Waterways Transportation System. We believe that Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) that would impose tolls on locks would drive traffic and key commodities off the waterways and geographically disadvantage shippers – and American family farmers particularly – who are located near areas that may have more locks to transit. WCI continues to stress that the most equitable, effective way to collect monies for construction and major rehabilitation for the inland waterways continues to be the assessment of the current $.29-centsper-gallon tax on diesel fuel consumed on
Civil Works function, to identify impediments to efficient project delivery, and to provide recommendations to the Congress. The passage of America’s Water Infrastructure Act/WRDA 2018 was a win for the Nation’s lock and dam infrastructure, along with other water resources programs. WCI is appreciative of the bipartisan leadership and steadfast commitment that Senate Environment & Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso and Ranking Member Tom Carper, and House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster and Ranking Member DeFazio demonstrated to keep the WRDA process running biannually to strong passage into law. Ahead, in the new Congress, WCI looks forward to working with our stalwart champions and to developing new relationships for the betterment of our inland waterways transportation system. We also anticipate the release of the FY2019 work plan from the Corps of Engineers that will provide funding allocations to enable continued progress on the top five priority navigation projects under construction. We also hope for a healthy FY2020 budget request for Corps’ funding from the Administration early in 2019. WCI and its members continue to propose changing the cost-share from 50% IWTF funding-50% Federal funding to 25% IWTF funding-75% Federal funding for inland waterways infrastructure. We will continue to press back against P3s that would impose tolls on locks, and we will explore redirecting a small portion of the revenues derived from the sale of hydropower generated at Corps’ lock and dam projects to be deposited into the IWTF instead of into the Treasury Department’s miscellaneous receipts account, where it currently goes. No new taxes or other charges would be required for anyone under this approach. 2018 was a very good year for the nation’s inland waterways transportation system and we believe the future in 2019 and beyond looks even more promising.