By Sarah Gonzalez, Director of Communications and Digital Media
During a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on July 10, the Waterways Council Inc. (WCI) asked lawmakers to support a new cost-share finance structure for inland waterway infrastructure projects, which is supported by the NGFA.
A financing model with 25 percent non-federal funds and 75 percent federal government funds would accelerate project completion for a number of critical inland waterways projects as well as maintain funding levels for the inland navigation capital program, explained Rob Innis, plant manager at LafargeHolcim Sparrows Point slag cement facility in Baltimore, Md., during the hearing.
“The inland waterways system has a portfolio of more than 15 high priority inland navigation projects either under construction or awaiting construction,” he said. “At the current rate, many of these projects will not even begin construction in the next 20 years.”
He explained that in the Water Resources Development Act of 2016, Congress changed the cost-share model for funding construction of deep draft ports from a 50/50 cost structure to the 25 percent nonfederal and 75 percent federal structure. This allowed ports to expand capacity to accommodate bigger vessels traveling through the Panama Canal. “This was necessary to enable our ports to remain competitive on a global scale,” he said.
In addition, a special provision in the 2014 Water Resources Reform and Development Act allowed for a temporary 25/75 cost-share over the past six years to expedite the Olmsted Locks and Dam revitalization program. This allowed for $600 million in annual national economic benefits to be accrued four years ahead of schedule, noted the Waterways Council.
By applying the same cost-share model to the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, “this committee’s action would allow for the inland navigation capital program to remain operating at or above a $400 million level achieved since the cost-share change at Olmsted, and accelerate project delivery on that portfolio of critical inland waterways projects,” Innis testified.
Further, he noted that in 2014 the inland waterways industry supported a 45 percent increase to the diesel fuel tax commercial operators pay that is deposited into the Inland Waterways Trust Fund – the highest federal fuel tax being paid by any transportation mode. The NGFA supports the Waterways Council Inc. in its efforts to oppose additional tollage and lockage fees on commercial users of the inland waterways.