WCI praises House passage of omnibus bill

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

(WASHINGTON) — The Waterways Council Inc. praised House passage Thursday of the fiscal year 2018 Omnibus Appropriations bill by a vote of 256-167. The bill includes record funding for the Corps of Engineers in the FY 2018 Energy & Water Development appropriations bill. 

The level of FY 2018 funding for the Corps’ Civil Works mission in the bill is $6.83 billion, an increase of $789 million from FY 2017 appropriated funding, and a 36 percent increase above the president’s FY 2018 budget request of $5 billion.

Highlights of the bill include:

• Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF)-supported projects will receive full use of estimated annual revenues plus additional balances from the IWTF with at least $399 million to be made available for priority navigation projects in FY 2018, a 128 percent increase over the administration’s request of $175 million. 

• The construction account was allocated $2.08 billion, more than a doubling of the $1.02 billion proposed in the FY 2018 budget request.

• The operations and maintenance (O&M) account was increased to $3.63 billion or 17.1 percent above the initial budget request of $3.1 billion.

• For the Investigations account, $123 million was allocated, up 43 percent from the president’s request of $86 million.

• The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) is funded at $1.4 billion, up 50 percent above the president’s request of $933 million.

• On the Navigation Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP), due to the earmark constraint within Congress, the assistant secretary of the Army (Civil Works) will have the ability to provide additional investigation dollars to preconstruction engineering and design (PED), but WCI will not find out until 60 days after enactment of the bill when the Corps releases its work plan.

• The omnibus bill did not include a new 10-year, $1.03 billion user fee to be paid by commercial operators on the inland waterways. The proposal was included in the president’s FY 2018 budget request. WCI strongly opposed this administration proposal. 

Of the FY 2018 bill, WCI President and CEO Michael J. Toohey said, “WCI is grateful for the bipartisan action by the House today in passing the record funding levels for the Corps of Engineers to continue its critical work on construction of four priority navigation projects across the inland waterways transportation system. We hope there will be quick passage in the Senate and then the president will sign the bill into law.”

By Professional Mariner Staff