Waterways Council, Inc. expressed its appreciation to Congress which, in the recently completed lame duck session, passed an omnibus spending package which allocates $4.7 billion in FY 2005 to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ civil works program. The bill includes $331.5 million for the Inland Waterways Users Board’s priority navigation projects – a $61 million increase over last year’s appropriations and $64.6 million over the President’s FY 2005 request for these projects.
Specifically, the Omnibus Bill appropriated funds to the following critical infrastructure projects on the inland waterways system: Inner Harbor ($14.5 million); Kentucky Lock ($32.5 million); Lower Mon 2,3 &4 ($35.5 million); Marmet ($75 million); McAlpine ($68.5 million); Olmsted ($69 million); Chickamauga ($17 million); and major rehabilitation on L&D 11 ($1.5 million); L&D 19 ($4.8 million) and L&D 24 ($8.8 million).
Despite last minute House-Senate negotiations, a final agreement on the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) failed to reach agreement in the lame duck session, a disappointment to the waterways industry. Even though WRDA did not pass this year, the omnibus measure contains $355,000 to continue the Upper Mississippi-Illinois Waterways navigation study and another $13.5 million in planning funds to start preconstruction engineering and design.
"We are grateful for Congress’ growing understanding and recognition of the critical value of our inland navigation system to our Nation’s continued prosperity. As funding for the Army Corps of Engineers continues to increase to allow for the maintenance of the inland waterways’ navigation infrastructure, we as a Nation ultimately benefit,” said R. Barry Palmer, President/CEO of Waterways Council, Inc. "We are, however, disappointed that the WRDA bill failed to pass this session and we will re-double our efforts to see its future passage,” he continued.
The waterways industry transports more than 800 million tons of our Nation’s most critical “building block” commodities such as coal, which supplies 50 percent of the Nation’s electricity, and grain (more than 60 percent of U.S. grain is bound for export). This industry also serves as a critical, integral component of the manufacturing, distribution and industrial economy of the U.S. and our ability to compete in world markets.