Waterways Infrastructure Sees Funding Increases in Omnibus Bill

Waterways Infrastructure Sees Funding Increases in Omnibus Bill

Soybean interests say funding allocations for waterways are a 'big win'

When the Senate and the House approved the $1 trillion omnibus spending package last week, there were bound to be some winners and some losers. But waterways infrastructure, says the American Soybean Association, is definitely one of the winners.

The bill, which has yet to receive the President's signature, combines appropriations bills for 12 categories – including Energy & Water. According to the Waterways Council, Inc., E&W has been funded at a level of $5.467 billion. That's a $748 million increase over the fiscal year 2013 post-sequester enacted level.

Soybean interests say funding allocations for waterways are a 'big win'

The appropriations language also makes some adjustments in the way the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and the Inland Waterways Trust Fund are managed.

Under the bill, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction General Account receives $1.6 billion and revises the FY14 cost-sharing formula for the Olmsted Lock & dam project to 75% General Funds and 25% from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund.

Currently the cost-share is split evenly and has resulted in the Olmsted project consuming nearly all of the IWTF funds, ASA said. The revised cost share will free up $81.5 million for other projects that have been delayed because of Olmsted's cost overruns.

Related: Congress' Spending Bill Funds Ag Programs at Levels Higher Than FY13

Another victory for ASA comes in the form of a significant increase in spending for port and navigation channel improvements, funded out of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. The bill provides $1 billion from the HMTF for port and navigation channel maintenance and dredging.

ASA has previously advocated to free up money from the IWTF and increase the amounts from the HMTF that go toward port maintenance and dredging.

ASA says that while the HMTF collects approximately $1.6 billion annually, only about half has been provided for actual harbor maintenance, with the rest diverted to general government purposes.

In addition to specific project allocations, the bill also provides $47 million in additional funds to navigation construction; $27 million added for navigation Operations & Maintenance; $128 million in additional O&M funds for deep draft ports and an additional $42 million for inland ports; additional $40 million for small ports O&M; and additional dredging funds of $5 million for Mississippi River Tributaries.

"Waterways infrastructure is so critical for soybean farmers," commented Ray Gaesser, ASA president. "Without it, more time, money and resources are needed to move our products to market."

Gaesser said the provisions in the funding bill are a positive sign that the Water Resources Development Act conference committee may be nearing completion with similar provisions for waterways funding in future years.

The House passed a WRDA bill in October, while the Senate passed their version in May.

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