The Waterways Council, Inc., at its board meeting in Houston Tuesday, unanimously endorsed the American Waterworks Act, which was proposed in late October by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to modernize America’s inland waterways and ports.
The new waterways funding plan would:
- Remove the requirement that Olmsted Lock and Dam be funded using Inland Waterways Trust Fund revenues. “Currently Olmsted Lock on the Ohio River has been consuming the vast majority of all the annual funding available for inland lock construction and rehabilitation and removing it from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund will free up revenue to address needed lock and dam repairs across the country, WCI said.
- Provide full federal funding for maintenance of harbors up to 50-feet deep. WCI said currently there's only full funding up to 45 feet, but the Panama Canal expansion will accommodate ships with a 50-foot depth.
- Establish an accounting method for revenues from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund that will allow those revenues to offset annual Harbor Maintenance spending.
- Speed up construction permit approval and provide states with the ability to appeal slow-moving regulatory decision making.
- Authorize a five-year construction program to expand harbors to accommodate the larger ships expected after the Panama Canal expansion.
- Increase revenue to the Inland Waterways Trust Fund in a way consistent with the agreement between the Inland Waterways Users and the Army Corps of Engineers.
- Require Inland Waterways construction projects to follow the plan agreed to by the Inland Waterways Users and the Corps of Engineers.
- Fund the Harbor Maintenance Trust and Inland Waterways Trust fund construction projects to authorized widths and depths as part of the five-year construction program.
- Fund landside infrastructure at ports.
“The American Waterworks Act follows many of the original recommendations of the Capital Development Plan, as well as WAVE 4 legislation in the House,” said WCI President and Chief Executive Officer Michael J. Toohey.
“The present business model for modernizing our lock and dam infrastructure is broken, with too few lock and dam projects being built on time and on budget,” he added. “Recognizing the failings in the current system, this bill will modernize our critically important inland navigation infrastructure and in so doing will benefit the U.S. agricultural sector, our construction industry, our energy sector, our environment, our economy, and all the beneficiaries of the waterways system.”
WCI said Alexander and Graham will seek bipartisan support of the bill and consider adding the American Waterworks Act to the Senate’s Water Resources Development Act bill or other relevant legislative vehicles.