Bill includes construction on Chickamauga Lock on the Tennessee River.
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has announced a bipartisan group of senators will introduce legislation that seeks to modernize ports, locks and dams throughout the United States.
Alexander says the American Waterworks Act will address major shortfalls in U.S. port and waterways infrastructure in preparation for the 2014 completion of the expansion of the Panama Canal.
Alexander also says a key part of the act is the construction of the Chickamauga Lock, which traverses around 320 miles along the Tennessee River. The legislation would provide two things to ensure construction of Chickamauga Lock. First, it would free up funds in the Inland Waterways Trust Fund to be used on priorities such as Chickamauga Lock by ending the requirement that trust fund revenues go to pay for Olmsted Lock on the Ohio River, a project that has been soaking up almost 90 percent of fund revenues. Second, Alexander says, it would nearly double the amount of money in the trust fund by doing exactly what the lock’s commercial users have requested—increasing the user fees they pay.
Alexander claims that construction of Chickamauga Lock would create a wider and a longer lock able to handle multiple jumbo barges at a time, increasing the volume of cargo that can come through the lock while decreasing the time it would take to get it through.
Alexander says if the project was complete it would remove around 100,000 trucks from the interstate, while allowing 6.7 million tons of cargo to move through the lock.
“We have two trust funds to deal with waterway infrastructure like the Chickamauga Lock, and neither of them works. The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund collects a lot of money, but doesn't spend it well. The Inland Waterways Trust Fund doesn't collect much money, but spends it well. This bill would fix the way our ports and waterways are funded so that we can meet the challenges they face, and passing this bill would mean Chickamauga Lock gets the funding it will need to be completed,” the senator adds.
The bill is designed to accomplish the following:
- Remove the requirement that Olmsted Lock be funded using Inland Waterways Trust Fund revenues (currently Olmsted Lock on the Ohio River requires $147 million of the $170 million in annual funding available for inland lock construction and rehabilitation and taking it out of 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 feet deep (currently it is only full funding up to 45 feet, but the Panama Canal expansion will accommodate ships with a 50 foot depth).
- Establish an accounting method for revenues from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund that will allow them to offset annual Harbor Maintenance spending.
- Speed up construction permit approval and provides states with the ability to appeal slow moving regulatory decision making.
- Authorize a 5-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 5-year construction program.
- Fund landside infrastructure at ports.