The US Waterways Council Inc. (WCI) has mixed feelings about the impact on their sector of President Obama's FY 2014 budget proposals.
WCI's initial views were as follows:
- This budget is steady-state with the overall funding level essentially the continuation of the post-sequester level for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works Program at $4.726 billion for FY ’14.
- While details are still unknown according to Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Administration’s per-vessel user fee proposal remains unwelcome by industry.
- The proposed level of funding for the Corps’ Operations & Maintenance (O&M) -- $2.588 billion, is encouraging, but the funding level for its Construction account ($135 billion is very disappointing.
- WCI is pleased with the $75 million for drought-related activity on the Middle Mississippi River, especially the $35 million allocated for Phases 2 and 3 of the rock pinnacle removal.
- The majority of funds appropriated for navigation projects are going toward the Olmsted project ($163 million), with $2 million for the Lower Mon Project and $10.4 million to complete Lockport.
“This budget request is not unexpected in the age of sequester and belt-tightening. The Administration’s per-vessel user fee proposal appears to be out of touch with the appropriate level of investment from the industry that is being advocated in the RIVER Act in the Senate and WAVE 4 in the House for an increase of between 30-45% in the diesel fuel user fee the industry pays into the Inland Waterways Trust Fund,” said Michael J. Toohey, President/CEO, WCI. “The industry and its many stakeholders in labor, manufacturing, agriculture, conservation and towing operations continue to urge inclusion of the Capital Development Plan-initiated user fee proposal in a WRDA bill as it moves through Congress,” he continued.
Waterways Council, Inc. is the national public policy organization advocating for a modern and well-maintained national system of ports and inland waterways.