(Posted Wed. May 15th, 2013)
May 15: The National Corn Growers Association thanked members of the U.S. Senate who overwhelmingly passed the Water Resources Development Act today, a bill that represents an important step forward in upgrading the inland waterways system.
“Our inland waterways, in particular the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, are an important route for moving our corn to markets worldwide,” said NCGA Chairman Garry Niemeyer, who has been active on the water issue for decades. “We’re proud to see such a united Senate approve this with an 83-14 vote and are looking forward to the day when some of these much-needed projects get rolling and get completed.”
Of specific interest to corn farmers, the bill contains provisions to remove the over-budget and long-delayed Olmsted lock and dam project from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF), the remainder of the cost to be paid 100 percent by general treasury revenue and not cost-shared 50-50 through the IWTF. This action will free up around $750 million to the IWTF to complete critical priority navigation projects. An increase in the threshold for major rehabilitation, from the current $14 million to $20 million, was approved.
Also included in the WRDA bill is prioritization of navigation projects and revamping of project delivery processes to achieve on-time and within-budget performance. Prioritization is based upon risk of failure and benefits to the nation with an emphasis on finishing projects already underway and ensuring that funding is available to efficiently complete work. Ensuring that future Corps’ estimates for project costs have a confidence level of at least 80 percent is also included.
On a separate matter, the bill also includes a provision to raise the threshold for farms that would need to comply with the Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures regulation for fuel tanks. The language would exempt small and medium-size operations from having to hire a professional engineer to develop a spill prevention plan.