Obama proposes 30 percent cut in Civil Works funding

The following is the text of a news release from the Waterways Council Inc. (WCI):

(WASHINGTON) — The Waterways Council Inc. (WCI) reacted to the fiscal year 2017 budget request made by President Obama on Tuesday, as detailed below. The budget:

• Proposes $4.62 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works program, a 29.8 percent cut from the $5.989 billion FY 2016 appropriation for the program;
• Proposes $1.09 billion for the construction account, a 41.5 percent reduction from FY 2016’s $1.862 billion;
• Proposes $2.705 billion for the operations and maintenance (O&M) account, $5 million less than the administration requested last year for the account, but a $432 million cut (13.8 percent) from what Congress appropriated for the current fiscal year;
• Requests $85 million for general investigations, but provides no funds for preliminary engineering and design (PED) for the Navigation Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP), authorized in WRDA 2007;
• Suggests a $1.289 billion inland waterways user fee. Similar proposals in the past have been soundly rejected by Congress;
• Requests $986 million be appropriated from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), down from $1.25 billion in FY 2016.

Also Tuesday, the Corps released its work plan for FY 2016 funding allocations made available by Congress as follows:

• Olmsted Lock and Dam Project will receive $268 million (a $55.3 million increase above the $212.7 million it got in the final FY 2015 work plan and $88 million more than the administration requested;
• Lower Mon 2, 3, 4 will get $58.9 million (a $3 million increase);
• Kentucky Lock will receive $45.4 million ($30.7 million higher than the FY 2015 work plan’s $14.7 million and $45.4 million more than the administration requested in FY 2016;
• Chickamauga Lock will get $29.9 million ($26.9 million higher than the FY 2015 work plan’s $3 million) and $29 million more than was included in the administration budget request;
• Lockport Lock and Dam (major rehab) received $1.4 million to award contract modifications to finish the project;
• There is no funding for NESP.

“The administration’s FY ’17 budget request for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works mission proposes a 30 percent cut and is the most disappointing budget to date. Our nation’s waterways, and lock and dam modernization, are critical to the transportation supply chain and to competition for shippers on the world stage, yet we continue to see slashed funding,” said Michael J. Toohey, president/CEO, WCI. “With congressional FY ’16 appropriations funding finally at efficient levels, we simply cannot go backward when the outlook for freight ahead is so robust. Congress has consistently demonstrated its understanding of the importance of infrastructure investment. WCI will work vigorously to reverse the administration’s recommendations in the halls of Congress."

By Professional Mariner Staff