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Brownwater News, June 2017

Jun 15, 2017 11:35 AM

WCI seeks 'full use' of trust fund revenues for waterways

At its annual news briefing on federal budgeting and appropriations, the Waterways Council Inc. (WCI) advocated the "full use" of Inland Waterways Trust Fund revenues for capital needs on the nation's rivers.

The June 1 WCI briefing addressed President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget request, the FY 2017 Consolidated Omnibus Appropriations Act, the Army Corps of Engineers FY 2017 Work Plan and the administration’s infrastructure initiative.

Trump’s budget request to Congress proposed $5.02 billion for the Corps’ Civil Works program, $382 million more than President Obama’s FY 17 request but $1 billion below the $6 billion appropriated for FY 17. The FY 18 budget proposed $1.02 billion for construction, $86 million for general investigations, $253 million for Mississippi River and tributaries projects, $965 million from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, and $3.1 billion for operations and maintenance (the highest recommendation ever).

For inland waterways capital projects, the budget requests funding only for the Olmsted Locks and Dam project (Ohio River), with the Inland Waterways Trust Fund share being $26.25 million out of the $105 million expected in 2018 from the 29-cents-per-gallon diesel fuel tax. Additionally, the budget request proposes to generate $108 million in new revenues from a user fee proposal floated by other administrations. This is estimated in FY 18 to total $213 million in trust fund income, but none of this current or new revenue will be spent beyond what is requested for Olmsted under the Trump proposal.

“WCI seeks ‘full use’ spending of trust fund revenues for the many capital needs on the inland waterways, and this budget request represents ‘bare use’ spending,” said Mike Toohey, WCI president and CEO. “Under this proposal, workers at three priority navigation projects — Lower Mon, Kentucky and Chickamauga — will be laid off, with additional costs incurred from shutting these ongoing projects down.”

In the Consolidated Appropriations Act, Toohey applauded Congress for FY 17 funding for the Corps’ Civil Works mission. The bill provides $3.1 billion for O&M and $362 million for Mississippi and tributaries projects.

The Corps’ work plan, which Toohey said is a “very positive picture,” includes $409 million for inland waterways capital investment at the following projects: Olmsted ($250 million); Lower Mon 2, 3, 4 ($82 million vs. $58.9 million in FY 16’s plan); Kentucky Lock ($39 million vs. $45.4 million in FY 16); Chickamauga Lock ($37 million vs. $29.9 million in FY 16); and $1 million to close out works at Emsworth Lock.

The WCI said it remained disappointed that the administration decided not to allocate design funding for the Navigation & Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP), whose authorization includes $1.7 billion for a 15-year ecosystem restoration program, plus $10 million annually for monitoring.

NESP also includes construction of seven 1,200-foot locks at the most congested locations (Locks and Dams 20 through 25 on the Upper Mississippi River, and La Grange and Peoria on the Illinois Waterway). Congress further authorized smaller-scale efficiency improvements. NESP’s authorization includes $1.9 billion for the seven new locks and $256 million for the small-scale efficiency measures. Finally, the briefing took up the administration’s infrastructure initiative and reported a backlog of 24 priority navigation projects totaling $8.7 billion that the WCI said could be funded in 10 years. The group suggested using trust fund revenue combined with special infrastructure general revenue and a temporary cost-share change of 25 percent trust fund, 75 percent infrastructure initiative funds.

“This option could fund 24 priority inland waterways modernization projects in 10 years rather than over 20 years, and allow the United States to continue to compete on the world stage, with the benefit of a reliable, efficient waterways transportation system,” Toohey said.

WCI applauds Trump's leadership on infrastructure

The Waterways Council Inc. praised President Trump’s visit to Cincinnati on June 7 to highlight the investment needs of the nation's inland waterways system, part of his legislative agenda on infrastructure.

"Our country has not seen this kind of leadership on infrastructure since President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1930s New Deal to build our locks and dams, or since the 1950s by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to construct the national defense and Interstate Highway System," the WCI stated in a news release. "Today, presidential leadership was demonstrated once again by emphasizing the importance of the inland waterways transportation system and this critical national infrastructure with the backdrop of the (Ohio River) itself. As President Trump said, the nation will rebuild rivers, along with roadways, runways and railways.

"We applaud the president for committing his vast building experience to modernizing the inland waterways, and establishing a goal of completing projects on time, on budget, and removing regulatory impediments," the group said.

Trump has proposed spending $1 trillion to upgrade U.S. infrastructure. The plan calls for $200 billion in federal funding over 10 years; another $800 billion would come from the private sector and state and local governments. The president didn't mention any specific projects by name.

Campbell acquires ACBL barge, towboat contracts

The Campbell Transportation Co. Inc. (CTCI) has signed an agreement with American Commercial Barge Line to acquire certain transportation contracts along with 155 barges and four towboats that will operate on the Ohio River system.

Once the acquisition has been completed, CTCI will own and/or manage more than 1,100 barges and 50 towboats on the inland waterways, along with four shipyard facilities and a marine construction company.

Campbell said it is committed to providing safe, efficient and reliable service to its customers, moving more than 60 million tons of product annually. Campbell expects to complete the transaction by the end of the second quarter of this year.

For more information, contact Gary Stapler at (724) 743-9027.

MarAd has $9.8 million in grants for small shipyards

The Maritime Administration (MarAd) reports that there is $9.8 million available for distribution to qualified small shipyards planning capital and related improvements under the Small Shipyard Grant Program.

MarAd advised interested parties that based on past experience, the number of applications will far exceed the funds available and that no more than 12 applications will be selected for funding. Applications must be received by MarAd by July 5. The Maritime Administration intends to award grants no later than Sept. 5.

For more information, contact David Heller at (202) 366-5737.

US boating fatalities hit five-year high in 2016

The U.S. Coast Guard reports that there were 701 boating fatalities nationwide in 2016, the highest number in the past five years.

From 2015 to 2016, boating deaths increased 12 percent from 626 to 701, injuries increased 11.1 percent from 2,613 to 2,903, and the total number of accidents increased 7.3 percent from 4,158 to 4,463.

The Coast Guard said that where the cause of death was known, 80 percent of the accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims, 83 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

Corps to drop EIS for Arkansas rivers study

The Army Corps of Engineers plans to withdraw its intention to prepare a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for a feasibility study to investigate hydrologic and hydraulic problems threatening navigation and existing infrastructure at the Three Rivers Study site in Arkansas and Desha counties in southeast Arkansas.

The Corps said that after a series of meetings and a comment period in 2015, “it no longer appears that impacts associated with project implementation would rise to a level necessitating an EIS."

“In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Little Rock District will be preparing an environmental assessment to address the impacts of the proposed action and alternatives. Therefore, the Little Rock District is withdrawing the notice to prepare a draft EIS.”

For more information, contact Craig Hilburn at david.c.hilburn@usace.army.mil.

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