Waterways Work! hailed the House's overwhelming passage of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill conference report by a vote of 387 to 36 yesterday afternoon. The FY '04 conference report project funding total for projects funded from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund is approximately $271 million for lock and dam improvement projects. This amount represents the highest level of funding since 1993. While still short of Waterways Work!'s recommended allocation of $300 million per year for a period of 10 years from the Trust Fund to complete authorized projects in a timely and efficient manner, it is viewed as a significant step in the right direction for modernization of the inland waterways system. The Senate is expected to pass the bill before the end of the week and the President is expected to sign the bill.
"We are very pleased to see that Congress increasingly understands the need to upgrade the deteriorating locks and dams on our vitally important inland waterways system," said Barry Palmer, President/CEO of Waterways Work! "We urge continued spending of the dedicated funds in the Inland Waterways Trust Fund to keep our national waterways system efficient, and our nation's transportation system economically competitive," he continued.
The Inland Waterways Trust Fund, established in 1986, collects taxes from barge and towing operators operating on the inland system of $.20-per-gallon for each gallon of diesel fuel used. The federal government then provides matching fund and the Trust Fund is to be spent on Congressionally authorized lock and dam projects. The Trust Fund currently has a surplus of approximately $400 million while locks continue to erode and risk complete failure.
The legislation's specific figures for Trust Fund-financed projects on the inland waterways system are:
Olmsted, $63M; Kentucky Lock & Dam, $29.9M; McAlpine Lock & Dam, $35M;
Inner Harbor, $12M; Lower Monongahela, $37.5M; Marmet, $65.2M;
Chickamauga, $5.4M; Lock & Dam #24, $15M; Lock & Dam #19, $0.75M; Lock &
Dam #11, $1.3M; Lock & Dam #3, $0.6M; Winfield, $2.0M; Robert C. Byrd,
$2.5M; Mel Price, $0.6M; and John T. Myers, $0.5M.