At its board of directors meeting held in Houston recently, Waterways Council Inc.’s directors unanimously endorsed the American Waterworks Act, proposed in late October by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to modernize America’s inland waterways and ports.
The new waterways funding plan would:
• Remove the requirement that Olmsted Lock and Dam be funded using Inland Waterways Trust Fund revenues (currently Olmsted Lock on the Ohio River has been consuming the vast majority of all the annual funding available for inland lock construction and rehabilitation and removing it from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund will free up revenue to address needed lock and dam repairs across the country);
• Provide full Federal funding for maintenance of harbors up to 50′ deep (currently it is only full funding up to 45′, but the Panama Canal expansion will accommodate ships with a 50′ depth);
• Establish an accounting method for revenues from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund that will allow those revenues to offset annual Harbor Maintenance spending;
• Speed up construction permit approval and provide states with the ability to appeal slow moving regulatory decision making;
• Authorize a five-year construction program to expand harbors to accommodate the larger ships expected after the Panama Canal expansion;
• Increase revenue to Inland Waterways Trust Fund in a manner consistent with the agreement between the Inland Waterways Users and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers;
• Require Inland Waterways construction projects follow the plan agreed to by the Inland Waterways Users and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers;
• Fund Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and Inland Waterways Trust Fund construction projects to authorized widths and depths as part of the five-year construction program; and
• Fund landside infrastructure at ports.
“The American Waterworks Act follows many of the original recommendations of the Capital Development Plan, as well as WAVE 4 legislation in the House,” WCI President/CEO Michael J. Toohey said in a statement. “WCI applauds Senators Alexander and Graham, for their strong leadership in addressing the critical needs of the inland waterways and ports system. This legislation will create American jobs, will enable growth in U.S. exports and will continue to fuel the economic engine that the waterways have become in the transportation supply chain.
“The present business model for modernizing our lock and dam infrastructure is broken, with too few lock and dam projects being built on time and on budget,” Toohey continued. “Recognizing the failings in the current system, this bill will modernize our critically important inland navigation infrastructure and in so doing will benefit the U.S. agricultural sector, our construction industry, our energy sector, our environment, our economy, and all the beneficiaries of the waterways system,” Toohey continued.
Senators Alexander and Graham will seek bipartisan support of the bill and will consider adding the American Waterworks Act to the Senate WRDA bill or any other relevant legislative vehicle.