WRDA to the Wise

By Michael J. Toohey, WCI President/CEO
Monday, June 24, 2013

May 15, 2013 was a very good day for the nation’s barge and towing operators, as well as shippers of grain, coal, chemicals, petroleum products, aggregate materials, and agri-input products. It was also a good day for our nation’s economy and for its consumers. The Senate passed, by a vote of 83-14, a long-overdue Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), last reauthorized in 2007. 
Six years may not seem like a long time to await action on Capitol Hill. But since 57% of the locks and dams on the nation’s inland waterways system have exceeded their economic design life expectancy of 50 years, every day anticipating increased investment is critical. Delay has meant that the nation’s critical inland waterways infrastructure has continued to erode without efficient funding levels to complete construction of locks and dams, or for major rehabilitation of the aged system. 
But thanks to the collaborative, bi-partisan efforts over many months, particularly by Senate Environment & Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ranking Member David Vitter (R-LA), WRDA was passed in the Senate. Among its many provisions, the WRDA bill contains a number of critically important elements related to the funding of inland waterways lock and dam infrastructure. 
Of particular interest to WCI and its members and stakeholders is the inclusion in the bill of several provisions of the RIVER (Reinvesting In Vital Economic Rivers and Waterways) Act -- S. 407 -- introduced by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), and co-sponsored by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS). They are: 
Changing Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) cost-sharing for the over-budget Olmsted lock and dam project, with the remainder of the cost of the project to be paid 100% by general treasury revenue.  Removing Olmsted from the Trust Fund will free up approximately $750 million in the Fund to complete other critical priority navigation projects on the system.
Increasing the threshold for major rehabilitation, from the current $14 million to $20 million, brings additional relief to the Trust Fund. Only around 300 towboat operators pay a user fee of 20-cents-per-gallon into the Trust Fund that is matched by the U.S. Treasury General Funds to pay for half of the cost of new construction and major rehabilitation on the waterways system.      
Prioritizing navigation projects and reforming Corps of Engineers’ delivery of projects to achieve on time and within budget performance is a hallmark of this legislation. Prioritization is based upon risk of failure and benefits to the nation with an emphasis on finishing projects already underway and assuring that funding is available to efficiently complete work. Ensuring that future Corps’ estimates for project costs have a confidence level of at least 80% is also included.
Passage of increased funding for inland port dredging to be released from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund was also welcomed by the industry in the just passed bill.
Not included in the Senate WRDA bill is the industry-supported provision to increase the diesel fuel user fee. The Constitution requires that revenue enhancement measures originate in the House of Representatives; therefore this provision must originate in the House version of WRDA or be added to some other revenue measure.    
The next step on WRDA is action in the House, where it is a priority under the leadership of Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster and Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs. Passage of a WRDA bill in the House, conferences with the Senate’s bill and finally onto the President for his signature, would meaningfully modernize our nation’s vital inland waterways transportation system. And according to Senator Boxer, the bill also has the potential to create an estimated 500,000 American jobs. It would also increase exports, keep our nation competitive, and inject billions of dollars into the U.S. economy.
In the House, the companion bill to the RIVER Act is H.R. 1149, WAVE 4 --Waterways are Vital for the Economy, Energy, Efficiency, and Environment Act of 2013. Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) introduced the bill on March 14, with lead Democratic co-sponsor Congressman Daniel Lipinski (D-IL).  Other bi-partisan co-sponsors include Congressman Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Congressman Spencer Bachus (R-AL), Congressman Bill Foster (D-IL), Congressman Rodney  Davis (R-IL), Congressman Pete Olson (R-TX), Congressman Jo Bonner (R-AL), Congressman William Enyart (D-IL), Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL),   Congressman Mike D. Rogers (R-AL), Congressman John M. Shimkus (R-IL), Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN), Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-IA), Congressman Matthew Cartwright (D-PA), Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI), Congressman Bill Johnson (R-OH), Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Congressman Sam Graves (R-MO),  Congressman Randy Hultgren (R-IL), Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL), and Congressman Rodney Alexander (R-IL). 
While many things in life are worth the wait, a WRDA bill that is achieved in a bi-partisan way and is signed by the President is simply something for which we can’t afford to wait much longer. Urge your House members to catch the WAVE 4 a WRDA bill this year.

 

(As published in the June 2013 edition of Marine News - www.marinelink.com)

Maritime Reporter May 2015 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

Navigation

Seaway to Receive Prestigious OECD Award

The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) announced today that it will receive a prestigious award from the Organization for Economic Cooperation

IMO Adopts Polar Code Environmental Provisions

United Nations' International Maritime Organization (IMO) has adopted the environmental part of the Polar Code. Hereby, internationally binding regulations on

NAVTOR AS, Nautic AB Launch Complete Navigation Solution

E-navigation specialist NAVTOR has joined forces with Nautic AB, a provider of navigational equipment, charts and publications to the Swedish market, to launch NAVTOR NAUTIC AB.

Environmental

Baltic Mercur II makes maiden voyage to Antwerp

This week Atlantic Ro-Ro Carriers (ARRC) celebrates the maiden voyage of the Baltic Mercur II via the port of Antwerp as part of their regular transatlantic service to the US Gulf.

Wärtsilä's' Propulsion for Use with US Compliant ELA

Wärtsilä has developed propulsion systems that are capable of operating with Environmentally Acceptable Lubricants (EALs) and comply with the US Vessel General Permit 2013 (VGP-2013).

Arctic Sea Ice Decline

Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is at its lowest May level since records began in the 1980s, says Al Jazeera.    The lowest levels in the history of Arctic sea ice

Barges

MPC Honors Crowley for Tank Vessel Safety

Crowley Maritime Corporation’s petroleum services division has once again been honored by Marathon Petroleum Company (MPC) with its annual Elite Vessel Award, which

HMC Helps Fine-tune Damen Offshore Carrier

Damen Shipyards has presented a new shipping concept to the market: the Damen Offshore Carrier (DOC) is specifically designed as a smaller heavy transport vessel suitable for offshore installations.

Barge Accident off Malaysia: 14 Lost

The Bolivian-registered Ocean Line 208 vessel, which was carrying sand, was hit by a huge wave at 4.20am today early morning and 14 people are feared to have drowned.

Government Update

Solarworld Wants Duties on Chinese Solar Goods in U.S. Extended

German solar manufacturer SolarWorld will apply to the United States for an extension of duties on Chinese panel imports that are due to end this year, weekly Euro am Sonntag said.

Alaska, Washington to build Arctic Icebreakers

Senator Lisa Murkowski, Alaska, and Senator Maria Cantwell, Washington, have introduced a bill that would authorize the Navy to build up six icebreakers for use by the U.

Launch of First Future Destroyer, Hobart

Speech delivered by the Minister for Defence, Kevin Andrews during the launch of Hobart - the first future destroyer: Thank you for being here on this very important day.

 
 
Maritime Security Naval Architecture Offshore Oil Pipelines Pod Propulsion Port Authority Ship Electronics Ship Repair Ship Simulators Winch
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.1991 sec (5 req/sec)