NGFA praises Senate committee vote on waterways bill
The National Grain and Feed Association today praised the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for approving waterways legislation that the group said “would reform the funding cost-share model for rehabilitating the nation’s inland waterways system.”
NGFA said the legislation, which authorizes $17 billion for various infrastructure projects, would “enhance U.S. agriculture’s competitiveness, contribute to the overall efficiency of the U.S. transportation system, and promote overall U.S. economic growth and job creation.”
The committee voted 21-0 to approve S. 3591, the America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) of 2020, which includes a section (Section 1069) that would increase to 65% the federal government’s share for funding construction and major rehabilitation of each inland waterways navigation project. The remaining 35% would be paid by commercial users of the inland waterways, such as barge and towboat operators, through barge diesel fuel taxes deposited into the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF). Currently, the cost-share formula is an even 50:50 split.
“… (C)hanging the cost-share formula for inland waterway construction and major rehabilitation of navigation projects, as proposed in the AWIA 2020 draft legislation, is both a necessary and prudent policy reform for which there is a precedent,” NGFA said in a statement submitted for the record prior to today’s Senate committee action. “This provision would expedite such projects and bring the U.S. inland waterways transportation system into the 21st century.”
NGFA noted that the majority of U.S. locks and dams have outlived their 50-year design life, and most are incapable of handling modern 1,200-foot barge tows while still others are requiring more maintenance that costs shippers valuable time and resources.
Since 2014, Congress has committed to examining and reauthorizing water infrastructure policies and projects every two years as part of the Water Resources and Development Act process. NGFA noted there were several precedents for changing the cost-share formula. In 2016, Congress changed the cost-share formula for deep draft ports from 50% general revenue and 50% non-federal sponsor funding to 75% general revenue and 25% non-federal sponsor. Congress also previously altered the cost-share for both the Olmsted locks-and-dam and the Chickamauga lock projects to increase the federal share.
AWIA 2020 next goes to the Senate floor for consideration, and NGFA urged prompt consideration and passage of the measure.
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This the first in a six-part series of articles covering basic water law in the United States, predominately in the western part of the country, and how it affects this finite resource.