ANOTHER SAD DAY FOR LOCKS AND DAMS

Lindsay Mitchell

Feb, 03, 2015  |  Today's News

We’ve had a lot of recent successes that could lead to upgraded locks and dams sooner rather than later.  We passed the Water Resources and Reform Development Act.  We secured an increase the User Fee that will help build funds to pay for upgrades. 

But today, the President proved that he’s not quite as focused on infrastructure investment as he acted.

His budget:

  • proposes $4.732 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works program, a 13.25% cut from the $5.454 billion FY’15 appropriation for the program;
  • proposes a 28.5%  reduction to the Construction account, from FY15’s $1.639 billion to a proposed $1.172 billion;
  • proposes $2.710 billion for the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) account, $110 million more than the Administration requested last year for the account, but a $198.5 million cut (6.8%) from what Congress appropriated for the current fiscal year;
  • requests $97 million for General Investigations, but provides  no funds for Preliminary Engineering and Design (PED) for the Navigation Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP), authorized in WRDA 2007;
  • proposes funding as recommended by the Inland Waterways Users Board at $180 million for the Olmsted Lock and Dam Project and $52 million for the Lower Mon 2, 3, 4 Project -- both to be cost-shared from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF).  Of note is that the Administration request for IWTF projects is more than $100 million below what could be supported by revenues going into the Trust Fund;  
  • once again, suggests a $1 billion inland waterways user fee that has been proposed in past budgets and rejected by Congress;
  • provides no funding for Kentucky Lock or Chickamauga Lock, leaving that $100 million in supportable investment from the Trust Fund to languish;
  • requests only $915 million be appropriated from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), which is well below expected revenues into the Trust Fund for FY 2016, and is significantly less than WRRDA’s target level for FY16, and which would leave a balance of just under $10 billion in the HMTF on September 30, 2016.

The Corps’ Civil Works Work Plan Fiscal Year 2015 (how the Corps will spend the money it received) is online at

http://www.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/Budget.aspx.

The work plan allocates funding for FY ‘15 as follows: 

Olmsted Lock and Dam Project will receive $205 million (a $45 million increase); Lower Mon 2, 3, 4 will get $58 million (a $49 million increase); and Kentucky Lock will receive $12 million (all $12 million is from additional funds provided by Congress). Only $106 million of the Congressionally-mandated $112 million increase for IWTF-funded projects is being allocated in the workplan, leaving $6 million unallocated.

In a press release issued today, Michael J. Toohey, Waterways Council Inc CEO, said, “Given recent austere budget proposals for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, it is not surprising that the Administration has slashed FY ’16 transportation infrastructure funding, but it is nonetheless disappointing to see so little appropriations funding requested for lock and dam modernization in a Presidential budget portrayed as focused on infrastructure investment.  In fact, a new National Waterways Foundation study indicates that if 21 priority navigation projects on our inland waterways could be completed at an estimated total cost of just $5.8 billion, the 20-year sum of related economic output activity would exceed $82 billion that would benefit our nation’s overall economy.”