Daniel P. Mecklenborg, First Vice Chairman and General Counsel of Waterways Council, Inc. (WCI) (and Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer of Ingram Barge Company
) testified today on behalf of WCI before the Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, U.S. House of Representatives. The topic of Mr. Mecklenborg’s testimony was the current status and future of the Nation’s inland waterway navigation infrastructure, including trends in the industry and the next decade’s needs.
In his testimony, Mecklenborg offered recommendations for consideration as appropriations legislation is debated. Among them are:
Timely appropriations. WCI urges Congress to complete annual Energy and Water Development appropriations bills covering an entire fiscal year prior to the start of that fiscal year and avoid funding of inland waterway infrastructure projects through Continuing Resolutions (CR). Through CR funding, project costs are increased, completion dates are postponed, benefits to the nation delayed, and sponsors of project cost-sharing are alienated.
Continue to appropriate the Inland Waterways Trust Fund surplus. WCI urges the Subcommittee to continue to appropriate the surpluses in the Inland Waterways Trust Fund and make the structural changes that are necessary in order that the dollars appropriated for modernization accomplish much more than they currently do. WCI does not support the establishment of new taxes on the industry, whether those taxes are in the form of fuel taxes or carry the label of user fees or lockage fees.
Focus construction funding on priority projects. WCI recommends a logical approach built around a set of prioritized construction projects, and urges strong annual appropriations funding for the Inner Harbor project in Louisiana and the Kentucky Lock and Dam project in Kentucky.
Increase O&M funding support for inland navigation projects. WCI urges additional funding to operate and maintain the current inland navigation system, which has remained relatively flat for the past two decades. This flat funding coupled with the increasing age and deterioration of the system has caused the Corps to pursue what they and others refer to as a “fix-as-fails” O&M strategy, instead of a preventative maintenance approach
which is the far preferable approach.
Authorize and fund the Upper Mississippi
-Illinois Waterway System Navigation project. Almost 15 years and more than $70 million has been spent studying navigation improvements on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. WCI strongly urges Congress to authorize this long-overdue project and fund its implementation without further delay.
Support national inland waterway initiatives. WCI recommends that the Subcommittee look into the possible proposal for a three-component National
Inland Waterway Initiatives research program intended to improve inland waterway traffic forecasts, transportation rate data, and risk assessment.