Transportation advocates and steel interests have lauded House
approval of legislation intended to improve water resource
infrastructure and fund port development.
The Water Resources
Reform and Development Act, passed by a vote of 417 to three,
joins a similar Senate bill passed earlier this year (
amm.com, May 16). It now heads to a conference
committee before being sent to President Obama for his
increases funding for harbor maintenance and to update river
locks used by barges, and reforms the delivery process of the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
is critical to the steel industry, our nations business
supply chain and to the economic competitiveness of our nation
as a whole," Thomas J. Gibson, president and chief executive
officer of the American Iron and Steel Institute, said. "Our
industry relies heavily on seaports and inland waterways to
move raw materials necessary for steelmaking, and to move
finished steel products to market."
Much of the bill is
designed to free money already authorized for waterways
spending, according to Michael J. Toohey, president and chief
executive officer of Arlington, Va.-based Waterways Council
Inc. It would reform the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, which is
supported by a tax on fuel use on inland waterways, to allow
funds to flow to projects more efficiently, he said, and
require funding for harbor maintenance to be increased each
year until all incoming tax funds are spent on port
modernization. Only half of the approximately $1.6 billion
annual income flowing into the harbor maintenance fund is being
used on port maintenance.
The Olmsted project, a
construction program on locks and dams in Illinois and
Kentucky, has faced several billion dollars in cost overruns
and dominated Inland Waterways Trust Fund financing. The House
bill would increase the proportion of federal funding for that
project in order to free more of the $166 million in annual
Inland Waterways Trust Fund income for other necessary projects
that have been neglected.
The bill was sponsored
by Rep. Bill Shuster (R., Pa.), chairman of the House
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.