Omnibus Bill Boosts Funding for USACE Projects
Upon review of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, Waterways Council, Inc. (WCI) is pleased with the FY 2014 Energy & Water Development Appropriations funding level of $5.467 billion, a $748 million increase over the FY 2013 post-sequester enacted level.
Within the Civil Works budget, the Construction General Account receives $1.656 billion and provides $163 million for the Olmsted Lock and Dam project. The legislation also establishes a cost-sharing formula for FY14 funds for Olmsted at 75% General Funds and 25% Inland Waterways Trust Funds (this significantly cost-overrun project had been funded at a 50%-50% cost-share). Other inland navigation construction projects received funding at the President’s requested level: Lower Mon 2, 3, 4, $1.96 million; and Lockport Major Rehabilitation, $11.4 million.
Of note is the allocation of $81.5 million in undesignated funding for inland navigation projects. The bill also includes an authorization for up to four new starts to be selected from inland navigation, flood control and storm damage prevention, and ecosystem restoration programs. One project must be from the ecosystem restoration portfolio, while up to two projects may be selected from the other categories. The Corps has 45 days after enactment to select projects for these additional funds, and the new starts. Very specific guidance is provided on use of the funds: a project must have received funding in one of the last three years; will reach a significant milestone or produce significant outputs in 2014; or is selected as a new start. The Corps must also develop a project rating system, and consider giving priority to projects benefitting the national economy or enhancing national, regional or local economic development. Factors such as job creation, economic impact on the local, regional and national economies if the project is not funded, and ability to obligate funds and complete the project, will also be taken into account.
The legislation also significantly increases spending for critical port and navigation channel improvements, with $1 billion provided from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. This is a healthy increase from recent levels; only about half of the $1.5 billion in annual harbor tax monies had been expended for dredging and seaport projects. In addition to specific project allocations, the bill also provides $47 million in additional funds to navigation construction; $27 million added for navigation Operations & Maintenance (O&M); $128 million in additional O&M funds for deep draft ports and an additional $42 million for inland ports; additional $40 million for small ports O&M; and additional dredging funds of $5 million for Mississippi River Tributaries (MRT).
“WCI and its member companies appreciate the recognition in this budget of the importance of the Corps of Engineers’ civil works/navigation mission to the nation. Its treatment of Federalizing a portion of the Olmsted project to allow for funding to flow to other priority projects is noteworthy. The nation’s waterways and ports facilitate America’s prosperity through exports, jobs, access to world markets, and competitive advantage. Congress is to be commended for recognizing the great value of our inland waterways transportation sector,” said Michael J. Toohey, President/CEO, WCI.