Trump proposes to cut Civil Works funding by 31 percent

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

(WASHINGTON) — The Waterways Council Inc. reacted to the Trump administration’s release of an outline of its top-line fiscal year 2020 budget numbers Monday. On Tuesday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its account and project-specific funding levels.

For the Corps’ Civil Works program, the FY20 budget proposes $4.82 billion, a 31 percent cut from the FY19 appropriated amount of $7 billion.

Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) proposed funding in FY20 is $55.5 million, with a total of $111 million requested for the Lower Mon Project (Monongahela River, Pittsburgh), funding it to completion. Congress appropriated $329.8 million for five IWTF-funded projects in the FY19 minibus appropriations bill, despite the fact that in FY19, the president’s request for construction was just $35 million for the Olmsted project. Congress increased that $35 million FY19 amount by 842 percent, enabling efficient funding for Lower Mon, Kentucky Lock (confluence of the Tennessee and Ohio rivers); Chickamauga Lock (Tennessee River); funding to completion for Olmsted Locks and Dam (Ohio River), and for major rehabilitation of LaGrange Lock (Illinois Waterway). If the president’s FY20 budget is accepted, Lower Mon would be the only IWTF project receiving FY20 funding, while Kentucky Lock and Chickamauga Lock would go unfunded.

The FY20 budget again proposes a per-vessel charge on the inland waterways, expected to raise $178 million annually that would be in addition to the current diesel fuel tax commercial operators pay. The FY20 budget also seeks to have commercial operators pay for 10 percent of operations and maintenance (O&M) funding, historically a federal responsibility.

The FY20 budget proposes $3.02 billion for O&M, and $148 million for the Mississippi River and tributaries (MR&T). Inland O&M received $705 million in the FY20 request.

The FY20 request also included $24.1 million for a deficiency correction at Mel Price Lock and Dam on the Mississippi River.

The investigations account is proposed to receive $82 million in FY20, with $1.5 million going toward pre-construction engineering and design for the Three Rivers Project in Arkansas.

The FY20 budget proposes $965 million derived from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, down from the FY19 appropriated level of $1.55 billion.

“Not unexpected based on past Office of Management and Budget requests from any administration, the FY20 proposal is still very disappointing considering the president’s many positive pronouncements on the importance of infrastructure investment,” said WCI President and CEO Mike Toohey.

By Professional Mariner Staff