Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., on Thursday introduced new legislation to address current problems facing locks and dams on inland waterways.
Casey said the Reinvesting In Vital Economic Rivers and Waterways Act of 2013, also known as the RIVER Act, will help ensure locks and dams projects stay on schedule and on budget. This bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., will also increase the overall investment in waterways projects.
Casey highlighted the importance of the bill to the Port of Pittsburgh.
“Our region’s locks and dams play a vital role in the moving of commerce, creating and sustaining jobs, and supporting economic growth throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania. It’s critical that we maintain and upgrade infrastructure that allows the continual use of waterways in the long term,” he said. “This legislation is about increasing investments in our rivers and reforming the current process in order to reduce waste and limit cost overruns. This bill will make our waterways more effective and efficient.”
American Waterways Operators (AWO), a trade association
representing the country's tugboat, towboat and barge operators,
announced its strong support for the bill.
is no secret that our water transportation infrastructure is in dire
need of modernization to keep pace with existing demand and sustain
America’s economic competitiveness for the future," said Tom Allegretti,
AWO's president and chief executive officer, in a statment. "During the low-water crisis on the
Mississippi River last fall, many Americans saw for the first time how
critical our inland waterways are to American jobs, exports, and
economic health. Sen. Casey’s bill is a critical step toward ensuring
the future reliability of the inland waterways infrastructure that is a
vital part of our national transportation system.”
Casey said the RIVER Act will both increase the federal government’s investment in the region’s waterways and overall investment through the creation of an additional revenue stream financed by users. The bill also changes the way waterways projects are managed to reduce cost overruns.
Features of the legislation highlighted by Casey's office and AWO include:
- Allowing risk-based cost estimates would that would help to ensure cost estimates are not exceeded and project schedules are kept. Any project with a multi-year funding stream would need a commitment from Congress. Projects that cost $45 million or more would be required to undergo an independent external peer review process that would provide the Army Corps of Engineers with an independent assessment of the models they use as well a range of alternatives and risk and uncertainty analyses.
- A requirement that the Army secretary work with the Inland Waterways Users board to develop a 20-year capital investment program for inland waterways projects.
- Increasing the Inland Waterways User Fee from 20 to 29 cents per gallon beginning after 2013 - a change that Casey says industry strongly supports.
- Cost-share requirements. (The RIVER Act reforms the way waterways projects are paid for resulting in an increase in the overall investment in inland waterways projects. AWO said there is a cost-share cap on lock construction projects to help keep projects on budget and control unreasonable cost overruns.)
- Prioritizing the completion of navigation infrastructure projects across the waterways system.
- Preserving an existing 50 percent industry/50 percent federal cost-sharing formula for new lock construction and major lock rehabilitation projects.
- A sustainable annual appropriation of $380 million, a significant portion of which is paid for by commercial users of the inland waterways system. - Chris Dupin