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 October 2014 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

Navigation

Avoiding the Edges of the Sea

Mariners do best when they avoid the edges of the sea – the shoals, rocks, and other hard spots.  Coming into contact with the edges of the sea at other than a

New Hamburg Süd Ships to Feature Nacos Platinum Systems

L-3 SAM Electronics has announced  that, via its L-3 Marine Systems Korea subsidiary, it has been awarded a contract to provide its NACOS Platinum navigation, automation and control system,

IMO Steps Up Safety in Polar Waters

United Nations’ International Maritime Organization (IMO) has adopted global, binding regulations to enhance safety of navigation in polar waters. After several years’ intense negotiations,

Environmental

What’s All the Noise at IMO?

Shipping may think they hear the sound of new regulations as they are slammed onto their desks.  What is all the noise concerning noise at IMO?  This may very well be the question from ship owners,

Will Congress Pass Any Maritime Legislation in 2014?

Following its usual summer break over August 2014, Congress came back from its five-week summer recess and spent a whopping eight days or so back in session before recessing once again,

ICS Addresses OECD Shipbuilding Working Party

The OECD should be cautious about becoming involved in the question of what constitutes an ‘eco-ship’, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) said to governments

Dredging

Song Thu Lays Keel for New Dredger

The construction of a new vessel of dredging fleet, project TSHD 2000, has been launched to the RS class in Da Nang, Vietnam. The keel laying ceremony was held

EU Funds Study into New Aberdeen Harbor

The EU's TEN-T Program will invest over $940,000 for development studies for a new harbor at Nigg Bay in Aberdeen, Scotland. The harbor is to support the existing

Boskalis Raises Full-year Profit Forecast

Q3 TRADING UPDATE - HIGHLIGHTS Good third quarter with sizable financial settlements on old projects Order book increased slightly to EUR 3.3 billion 2014

Barges

Maritime Reporter @ 75: The Daily Cartoon

Maritime Reporter & Engineering News was founded by John J. O'Malley (1905-1980) in 1939, and today ranks as the world's largest audited trade publication in the world serving the maritime industry,

Insights: Morton S. Bouchard III

Insights: Morton S. Bouchard  III - President and CEO, Bouchard Transportation Co., Inc. When it comes to iconic, East Coast mainstays of the U.S. maritime industry,

Ice to Close Upper Mississippi from Nov. 20

The shipping season on the upper Mississippi River will end on Thursday as ice surrounding locks and dams near Minnesota's Twin Cities forced the earliest winter

Government Update

US House to Hold Hearing on Oil Export Ban

A House of Representatives panel will hold a hearing on Dec. 11 to explore whether a decades-old law that prohibits the export of crude oil makes sense in an era of domestic energy abundance.

Australian Defence Minister Says Would Not Trust Submarine Firm to Build Canoe

Australia's defence minister has said he would not trust state-owned Australian Submarine Corp (ASC) "to build a canoe", fuelling expectations that most work in

Shipbuilding Regulations: Cents and Sensibility

Addressing the Jones Act is just one aspect of an increasingly complicated boatbuilding environment. Stovepiped, poorly conceived regulations is another. The sting of the recession is fading,

 
 
Maritime Standards Pipelines Pod Propulsion Port Authority Salvage Ship Electronics Ship Repair Ship Simulators Shipbuilding / Vessel Construction Winch
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | terms and conditions | 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: 0.4654 sec (2 req/sec)