Today at the Chickamauga Lock and Dam on the Tennessee River, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) announced the pending introduction of a new waterways funding proposal known as The American Waterworks Act.
While ICGA is reviewing the details of the plan, as described by Senator Alexander, the plan would:
- Remove the requirement that Olmsted Lock be funded using Inland Waterways Trust Fund revenues (currently Olmsted Lock on the Ohio River has been consuming the vast majority of all the annual funding available for inland lock construction and rehabilitation and removing it from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund will free up revenue to address needed lock and dam repairs across the country);
- Provide full federal funding for maintenance of harbors up to 50 feet deep (currently it is only full funding up to 45 feet, but the Panama Canal expansion will accommodate ships with a 50 foot depth);
- Establish an accounting method for revenues from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund that will allow those revenues to offset annual Harbor Maintenance spending;
- Speed up construction permit approval and provide states with the ability to appeal slow moving regulatory decision making;
- Authorize a 5-year construction program to expand harbors to accommodate the larger ships expected after the Panama Canal expansion;
- Increase revenue to Inland Waterways Trust Fund in a manner consistent with the agreement between the Inland Waterways Users and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers;
- Require Inland Waterways construction projects follow the plan agreed to by the Inland Waterways Users and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers;
- Fund Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and Inland Waterways Trust Fund construction projects to authorized widths and depths as part of the 5-year construction program; and
- Fund landside infrastructure at ports.
“We knew the Senate had great interest in putting together a package which would marry key components to fix the funding issues related to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and the Inland Waterway Trust Fund” said ICGA’s Field Services Director, Jim Tarmann. He also noted, if today’s announcement becomes reality, it would be a significant step forward in preparing our U.S. ports and inland waterway transportation infrastructure to take full advantage of the expansion of the Panama Canal slated for completion in 2014.
Senator Alexander, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and a bipartisan group of Senators will now pursue additional co-sponsors in the Senate, and consider adding the American Waterworks Act to the Fiscal Cliff bill expected in the lame duck session, or a Senate WRDA bill.
ICGA will keep members informed of developments related to this proposal.
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