President Obama’s budget for fiscal year 2014 includes $4.8 billion in gross discretionary funding for the Army Corps of Engineers' Civil Works program, offset in part by a proposal to cancel $100 million in unobligated carryover of funding appropriated prior to fiscal year 2013.
Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, said the budget “continues the administration's emphasis on maintaining the nation's waterborne transportation system, reducing flood risks to the American public, and restoring large ecosystems through targeted investments that fund the development, management, restoration, and protection of the nation's water, wetlands, and related resources.”
New federal funding in the Civil Works budget consists of $3.798 billion from the general fund, $890 million from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), $94 million from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, and $44 million from Special Recreation User Fees.
The HMTF is funded with revenue from a 0.125 percent ad valorem
tax imposed on commercial users of specified U.S. ports, Saint Lawrence Seaway tolls, and investment interest.
Despite calls by advocates for full spending of the HMTF on maintenance projects, or at least full spending of the money collected in each future year for its intended purpose, the budget calls for appropriations of just $923 million in 2014 even though the fund will have a balance of $7.9 billion at the beginning of fiscal year 2014 and is expected to grow by $2 billion with $1.8 billion in user fees and taxes and $247 million from earnings on investment.
The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) said the budget offered a “potpourri of support for crucial seaport infrastructure needs.”
It commended the Corps for making the coastal navigation portion of the Civil Works program $42 million higher than last year’s $848 million request.
But Kurt Nagle, AAPA’s president and chief executive officer, said the budget proposal still misses the mark set forth in the MAP-21 surface transportation legislation passed by Congress last year. MAP-21 recommended the administration request full use of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) for operating and maintaining U.S. navigation channels.
“On the one hand, we’re pleased the administration has bumped up its budget request for vital navigation channel maintenance projects. On the other hand, we’re disappointed the president’s budget request is still hundreds of millions shy of what Congress called for in MAP-21,” Nagle said.
The Harbor Maintenance Tax collects about $1.6 billion annually for deep-draft navigation maintenance dredging, and the ‘Sense of Congress’ in the MAP-21 bill was that the administration should request the full amount be spent.
Nagle said,“Maintaining our federal navigation channels to their constructed dimensions would help buoy our economy and create jobs by making U.S. exports more internationally competitive and would make for safer and more efficient access into and out of America's seaports.
“Also concerning to AAPA is a reduction in the administration’s budget to pay for improving America’s deep-draft navigation channels to accommodate today’s larger, more fuel-efficient vessels. The budget calls for cutting the Corps' Coastal Navigation Construction program from the $151 million proposed in fiscal 2013 to $108 million proposed for fiscal 2014. This represents a 28.5 percent decrease,” he added.
The Army Corps said the budget ocvers 18 commercial navigation projects (including three continuing mitigation items, six dredged material placement areas, one budgeted for completion and one new start),
Among the ongoing construction projects in the fiscal year 2014 budget, the highest funded projects are: Olmsted Locks and Dam in Illinois and Kentucky ($163 million); Mississippi River Between the Ohio and Missouri Rivers ($50 million); and New York and New Jersey Harbor ($49 million
The fiscal year 2014 Investigations account includes funding for work on proposals to deepen eight U.S. ports with a high level of commercial use. These ports include Boston, Charleston, Freeport, the Houston Ship Channel, Norfolk, the Elizabeth River in Virginia, Portland (Oregon), Savannah, and Seattle. The budget also includes funding on proposals to improve two additional high-use U.S. ports, Baltimore and Mobile.
Additional details can be found here under the heading Program Budget: Press Books.
- Chris Dupin