(Posted Tue. Jun 10th, 2014)
The National Corn Growers Association thanked President Obama for signing the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014. This final reauthorization bill, which will improve the reliability and efficiency of the U.S. inland waterways system, was passed by the House on May 20 and the Senate on May 22.
“This legislation provides an important step toward the infrastructure improvements vital to our nation’s inland waterway system, and we thank the President for signing this bi-partisan bill into law,” said NCGA President Martin Barbre. “Our locks and dams transport our cargoes today, but were built in the 1920s and 1930s to accommodate far smaller loads and far less river traffic. For farmers in particular, this is crucial, as more than 60 percent of the nation’s grain exports are transported by barge. The need is urgent; U.S. farmers and businesses rely upon this transportation channel to create economic opportunities at home and supply markets abroad. Now, it is imperative that we continue our momentum related to waterways improvements by passing the diesel user fee.”
WRRDA will bring a greater degree of accountability to the Army Corps of Engineers project delivery system by prioritizing authorized improvements based upon risk of failure and economic return to the nation. The report includes four recommendations originally issued in the Capital Development Plan which was developed in concert with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and unanimously endorsed by the Congressionally-chartered Inland Water Users Board in 2010.
· Federalize the project at the Olmsted Locks and Dams. This would create a permanent cost-sharing arrangement for the remaining cost of the project, with 85 percent of funding taken from the general fund and 15 percent taken from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. This would make approximately $105 million per year available for funding other Trust Fund priority projects.
· Redefine major rehabilitation projects eligible for funding through the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, increasing the current level defined in law from $14 million to $20 million. The level would also be adjusted annually to account for inflation.
· Prioritize projects solely upon the basis of risk of failure and economic benefit to the United States.
· Reform project delivery to achieve on-time and on-budget performance.
With this final reauthorization bill signed into law, NCGA urges Congress to quickly move to address the proposed increase to the diesel fuel user fee which would provide additional revenue to the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. By increasing this tax between six and nine cents per gallon of fuel, the industries using the waterways would be able to provide needed funds for the improvement and maintenance of the infrastructure on which they rely. Notably, all parties which would be subject to this tax have publicly stated their support and recognition that the revenue raised would play a vital role in maintaining infrastructure key to their economic well-being.