Senator Bob Casey offers a new waterways funding proposal.
The Executive Committee of Waterways Council Inc. has unanimously voted to support The Reinvesting in Vital Economic Rivers and Waterways Act of 2013, sponsored by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA). The plan, according to its backers, would establish “a sustainable, cost-effective way to ensure that the inland and intra-coastal waterways of the United States remain economically viable.”
According to the WCI, the bill would modernize America’s inland waterways system, create jobs, relieve traffic congestion and optimize competitiveness through the waterborne shipment of commodities.
The Act has been designed to address the following:
- prioritize the completion of navigation projects across the entire waterways system;
- improve the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ project management and processes to better deliver projects on time and on budget, in order to realize $8 billion in job creation;
- reform project cost allocations;
- recommend an affordable – and increased—user fee funding mechanism to meet the system’s needs; and
- realize a sustainable annual appropriation of $380 million, of which a significant portion is paid for by commercial users of the system.
The proposal’s backers also say it would:
- reserve the existing 50 percent industry/50 percent federal cost-sharing formula for new lock construction and major lock rehabilitation projects;
- include a cost-share cap on lock construction projects to incentivize keeping projects on budget and prevent shippers from bearing the burden of paying for unreasonable cost overruns. This will strengthen the ability of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund to fund more priority projects in the pipeline; and
- increase by 45 percent (9 cents per gallon) the existing fuel tax of 20-cents-per-gallon that is paid by the barge and towing industry, the only users of the system who currently are taxed. At the same time, the recommended reforms to the Corps of Engineers’ project management and delivery process would ensure that these additional resources are spent wisely.
“We applaud Senator Casey’s effort in devising the River Act that will modernize our critically important inland navigation system and its infrastructure,” says WCI President and CEO Michael Toohey. “Modern waterways are critical to U.S. competitiveness in the world market, to environmental protection, to energy efficiency, to highway congestion relief and to the sustainment of well-paying American jobs. They benefit the U.S. agricultural sector, our construction industry, our energy sector, our environment, our economy, and all the beneficiaries of the waterways system.”