The following is the text of a news release from the Waterways Council Inc. (WCI):
(WASHINGTON) (May 21) — Today WCI applauded the leadership of Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Senate Energy and Water Development (E&WD) Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., for the 26-4 vote approving the FY 2016 appropriations bill that increases funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works Program.
The overall size of the Corps’ Civil Works mission portion of the Senate bill is $5.49 billion and adds $768 million to the administration request.
“Important to (the) American commerce and public safety, the committee rejects the president’s budget recommendation to cut Army Corps of Engineer(s) funding by 17 percent and instead approved a responsible level of funding to improve and maintain flood control projects and ensure the viability of national and regional ports and waterways,” a news release from the Senate Appropriations Committee stated.
Highlights of the Senate appropriations bill for FY 2016 include:
• The bill increases the president’s proposed construction account funding level by $469 million to $1.64 million, and allows for six new starts in FY 2016.
• Within the construction account, $340 million is made available for Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) priority navigation projects, an amount that makes full use of estimated Inland Waterways Trust Fund annual revenues. Olmsted Lock/Dam will receive $180 million and the Lower Mon 2, 3, 4 project, $52 million. The secretary of the Army will determine the allocations of the additional $108 million toward the other IWTF priority navigation projects using the 2010 Capital Development Plan list of priorities and not the new 20-year plan the Corps is developing for submission to Congress on June 10.
• A news release issued May 19 from Alexander’s office said, “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be able to restart construction in fiscal year 2016 of Chickamauga Lock, which is funded by the Inland Waterways Trust Fund and the federal government. In this legislation, $29 million will be available to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers because of Chickamauga Lock’s high position on the priority list of essential American waterways to be rebuilt, an amount that is sufficient to restart construction of Chickamauga Lock.”
• Investigations received $109 million, which is $12 million above the administration’s request.
• The Corps’ operations and maintenance (O&M) account funding level is $2.909 billion, nearly $199 million higher than the administration’s FY 2016 requested level. Additional O&M money was provided for deep draft harbors and channels ($135 million), inland waterways ($45 million), and small, remote or subsistent harbors and channels ($50 million).
• $1.25 billion is provided from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) to the Corps Engineers for O&M of federal navigation channels, an 11.9 percent increase over FY 2015 appropriated levels. This amount meets the FY 2016 funding level outlined in WRRDA 2014 and advocated by WCI and the American Association of Port Authorities’ "Hit the HMT Target" campaign.
• Mississippi Rivers and tributaries (MR&T) received $330 million, up $105 million from the president’s request.
• On the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP), the committee directed the Corps to “provide a report detailing the scope, schedule, and budget for delivering the updated economic analysis and cost recertification so the Corps of Engineers can begin implementing NESP.”
“WCI offers tremendous thanks to Chairmen Cochran and Alexander, along with Appropriations Committee ranking member Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) E&WD Subcommittee ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Their leadership and forward-thinking approach to modernizing our nation’s inland waterways transportation supply chain will facilitate anticipated record export growth,” said WCI President Michael J. Toohey.
Waterways Council Inc. is the national public policy organization advocating for a modern and well-maintained national system of ports and inland waterways. The group is supported by waterways carriers, shippers, port authorities, agriculture, labor and conservation organizations, shipping associations and waterways advocacy groups from all regions of the country. Visit www.waterwayscouncil.org.