Pushing for Inland Waterways Funding

Wednesday, May 12, 2004
Stressing the high value to the nation and the critical condition of some of its chief assets, the Inland Waterways Users Board released its Annual Report to Congress, and provides recommendations related to the inland waterways system of the United States.

Sent to Assistant Secretary of the Army John Woodley, President of the Senate and Vice President Dick Cheney, and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, this year's report strongly urges Congress and the Administration to view our nation’s waterways as much more than just transportation routes, but also living resources that provide benefits such as flood control, hydroelectric power, local water supply, recreational opportunities, and habitat for fish and wildlife. The Annual Report notes that, “Without immediate congressional action to upgrade and improve this previously world class system, agricultural exports will be in peril, power costs will drastically increase, manufacturing costs for consumer durables and non-durables using chemicals and petrochemicals will increase dramatically and the environment will suffer increased pollutants, noise and congestion.” The Users Board writes, “in order to continue serving the nation, the inland waterways system needs urgent attention,” and offers 10 specific recommendations. In addition, the following points are highlighted:

--The report no longer uses individual rankings for priority projects in the inland system, but rather focuses on groups of "Capstone Activities"; "High Priority Construction & Major Rehab Projects”; "Priority PED Projects & Studies"; and "Complete Expeditiously."

--The Users Board strongly urges Congress to fund authorized projects at "Full Efficient Funding" levels from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, and to stop the waste of taxpayer dollars.

--The report has a strong emphasis on the neglect of Operations and Maintenance (O&M) and chronically deferred maintenance on the system.

--The report, for the first time, uses color photographs to depict the serious decay of many navigation structures (locks and dams).

--The report also strongly calls for Congress to appropriate funds to responsible agencies for environmental mitigation, rather than funding these projects through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“The Users Board plays a vital role in working with Congress to recommend full and efficient funding for the inland system’s most critical projects. If we continue to neglect our inland waterways transportation system, which is so vital to the competitiveness of our country and the globe, we will pay a high price for the myriad transportation and quality of life benefits that will, literally, be washed down the river,” said Gerald Brown, Chairman of the Inland Waterways Users Board, and President, Cargill Marine and Terminal, Inc.

The Inland Waterways Users Board Annual Report to Congress can be found at http://www.iwr.usace.army.mil/usersboard/IWUBFinalReport2004.pdf.

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