House bill would fund waterways projects

The House of Representatives sent a strong signal of support to inland operators by overwhelmingly passing a $4.8 billion fiscal year 2005 budget appropriation for the Corps of Engineers. Much of the funding would be dedicated to commercial navigation projects.

Lock-and-dam projects that have been under study for more than 20 years would be fully funded under the appropriation, according to Barry Palmer, president and CEO of the Waterways Council Inc., Arlington, Va. 

He points to McAlpine Lock and Dam in Louisville, Ky., which Congress earmarked $80 million for. 

“We will now be able to see completion of this project along with other high priority projects,” he said, such as the Olmsted Locks and Dams on the Ohio and the Marmet Lock on the Kanawha River in West Virginia. 

“It has become clear that Congress understands how important the inland navigation system is to the economy of this country,” said Palmer.

Another winner in the House budget would be the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, which had been zeroed out in the administration’s budget. The AIWW, which runs from Norfolk, Va., to Miami, has not been maintained at its mandated depths of 10’-12’. 

The North Carolina portion of the waterway would receive $3 million with an additional $1 million to dredge and reopen Lockwood’s Folly, a widely used inlet that closed in December 2003. The Florida portion of the AIWW would receive $4 million for dredging. 

“It was the grassroots effort on the part of the people who use the waterways that made the difference here,” said Rosemary Lynch, president of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association.

The Senate is scheduled to take action on its budget for the Corps after the Fourth of July recess.

The House, which passed the budget on June 25 by a 370-16 vote, expressed its displeasure with the adminstration’s funding requests for the Corps.

The House Appropriations Committee approved the bill on June 16, adding over $700 million to the president’s budget request for the Corps. In its report accompanying the Fiscal 2005 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill, the committee said the “administration’s budget request for the Civil Works Program of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues the unfortunate trend of recent years by drastically underfunding the Corps Civil Works Program for Fiscal Year 2005. It is not uncommon for the adminstration and Congress to disagree on spending priorities for the Civil Works Program, but the Fiscal Year 2005 budget request reflects a deeper philosophical disconnect about the Civil Works Program.”

The text of the bill and the committee report is available at http://thomas.loc.gov/home/approp/app05.html.

Over in the Senate, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the Water Resources Development Act of 2004 that would spend $2.3 billion to upgrade seven locks and dams on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers. It would also subject Corps of Engineers projects to independent review and make it mandatory that the agency file annual progress reports with Congress. — Kathy Bergren Smith and David Krapf

 

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