The House unanimously on Dec. 7 passed a water resources bill that includes major NGFA policy priorities designed to expedite the funding of projects to rehabilitate the locks and dams on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Waterway.
The Water Resources Development Act of 2020 (WRDA) (S. 1811) amends the cost-share formula for inland waterway projects to provide that 65 percent of the funding would be derived from taxpayer revenues and 35 percent from user fees deposited in the Inland Waterway Trust Fund. Currently, the funding formula is split 50:50. The policy change would be in place for 10 years and result in an additional $100 million per year for inland waterways construction projects. The trust fund consists of revenues generated by barge fuel taxes assessed against commercial users of the inland waterways.
The House-passed bill also would allow access to the existing balance of funds within the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund over a five-year period. Currently, nearly $10 billion has been collected and deposited in the fund but gone unspent for its intended purpose. According to a summary prepared by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the legislation would authorize an additional $2 billion per year for harbor dredging projects from the trust fund’s balance.
In addition, WRDA 2020 would authorize about $9.9 billion in federal funds for 46 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control, environmental restoration, coastal protection and other projects.
NGFA and other national agricultural producer and agribusiness organizations that are part of the Agricultural Transportation Working Group are working to ensure the legislation, which has been negotiated with the Senate, is voted on in the upper chamber and signed into law before the lame duck session of Congress adjourns by year’s end.
NGFA members can advocate for WRDA here by contacting their senators.