Waterways Council Urges Support For WRRDA Bill Passage

By George Backwell
Friday, May 16, 2014
Michael Toohey: Photo WCI

Waterways Council, Inc. (WCI) says it praises the final conference agreement for the Water Resources Reform Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014, which contains four major recommendations of the Capital Development Plan (CDP), and urged passage of a final bill.

WCI explain that the CDP is a comprehensive consensus package of recommendations to improve the continued vitality of the inland waterways that was developed in concert with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and was unanimously endorsed by the Congressionally chartered Inland Waterways Users Board in 2010, The following are highlighted by WCI:

  • Olmsted Federalization: permanent cost-sharing for the remaining cost of the Olmsted project will be 85% General Fund, 15% Inland Waterways Trust Fund, freeing up approximately $105 million per year for funding other Trust Fund priority projects with Olmsted funded at $150 million per year.
  • Definition of Major Rehabilitation Project Eligible for Inland Waterways Trust Fund: increased from current law level of $14 million to $20 million and adjusted annually for inflation.
  • Prioritization of Projects: based upon risk of failure and economic benefit to the Nation (as proposed by the CDP).
  • Project Delivery: based upon CDP-recommended reforms to achieve on-time and on-budget performance.

The conference agreement also establishes annual target appropriations levels for increased spending of funds from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) leading to full use of HMTF funds by 2025. 

WCI considers that the  last major element of the CDP that must be addressed by Congress is an increase to the diesel fuel user fee.  House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Camp included a 6-cent increase to the user fee in his February 26, 2014 discussion draft of a tax reform bill.  Senator Bob Casey introduced an amendment to increase the user fee by 9 cents in the tax extenders bill in early April, but withdrew it when it was ruled non-germane.  He and others are seeking to add the amendment to the first appropriate revenue bill. 

Michael Toohey, WCI President/CEO said:
“WCI’s members -- the nation’s towboat operators, shippers, labor, port, conservation and agriculture group members that rely on an efficient, modern, viable waterways system -- are deeply grateful for the news of a strong WRRDA bill. 

"We are particularly thankful to the strong, bi-partisan leadership of Senate Environment & Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer and Ranking Member David Vitter; House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, Vice Chairman Congressman Jimmy Duncan, and Ranking Member Nick Rahall; House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs and Ranking Member Tim Bishop; RIVER Act (S. 407) sponsors Senators Mary Landrieu, Lamar Alexander, Amy Klobuchar, Tom Harkin, and Al Franken, led by lead sponsor Senator Bob Casey; and WAVE 4 (H.R. 1149) lead co-sponsors Congressman Ed Whitfield and Congressman Dan Lipinski, along with 31 co-sponsors.”
 
He continued: “This critical bill, that we urge President Obama to sign into law, will create American jobs, increase exports, keep our nation competitive in world markets, and enhance the reliability of the nation’s waterways transportation mode.”

WCI informs it will hold a news media briefing by teleconference on Friday, May 16, 2014 to discuss the contents of the WRRDA Conference Report: Dial 1-866-642-1665, PASSCODE# 688402

RSVP:  dcolbert@vesselalliance.com

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