ASA Positions

  • ASA requests that Congress provide adequate funding to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and specify that it be spent to dredge and repair inland waterways damaged by historic flooding.
  • ASA supports the Realize America’s Maritime Promise Act and the Harbor Maintenance Act of 2011, which will ensure sufficient funding for dredging of inland waterways and port maintenance activities, to prevent money collected from being diverted to the General Treasury for other purposes.
  • ASA supports the Waterways are Vital for the Economy, Energy, Efficiency, and Environment Act (WAVE4), to spur the action that is urgently needed to avoid catastrophic disruptions to commerce and maintain the economic competitiveness of U.S. exports.
  • ASA opposes any disruption or delay in dredging activities on the Mississippi River System that would restrict barge traffic.
  • ASA urges that the funding, authorized in the 2007 WRDA for the upgrade and construction of locks and dams on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers, be appropriated and/or provided.
  • ASA supports the exemption of farm trucks from a set of regulations intended for interstate long-haul truckers, including requirements for commercial drivers’ licenses, medical exams and certificates, hours of service, and vehicle inspection and maintenance.
  • ASA supports the truck weight limit provisions as proposed in the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (SETA), which would increase the limit to 97,000 pounds when an additional sixth axle is added.

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Issues Background

Waterways: Energy & Water Appropriations

The successful policy changes achieved in the 2014 Water Resources Reform & Development Act (WRRDA) must continue to be reflected in the annual Energy & Water appropriations bill.  Following are the FY2017 funding requests advocated by ASA and our partners in the waterways industry:

  • Provide a total of $10 million from the Investigations account of the Corps of Engineers be allocated to continue pre-construction engineering and design (PED) for the Navigation & Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) – Upper Mississippi River & Illinois Waterway System as authorized in Title VIII of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007.
  • Appropriate the highest level of funding that can be supported by the inland waterway barge fuel fee revenues received into the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF). It is estimated that the trust fund can support an appropriation of $390 million in FY17. House and Senate Committee passed bills both call for “full use” of IWTF revenues.
  • Provide at least $3.1 billion for the Corps of Engineers’ Operations & Maintenance (O&M) account. House and Senate Committee passed bills provide $3.15 and $3.17 billion.
  • Increase funding above $1.25 billion for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) for maintenance & construction of ports and harbors. House and Senate Committee bills provide $1.26 and $3.1 billion respectively.

Waterways: Water Resources Reform & Development Act (WRRDA)

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and Senate Environment & Public Works Committee have passed WRDA reauthorization bills in 2016.  The last WRRDA enacted in 2014 was a two-year reauthorization that made significant reforms and the committees want to stay on schedule and follow that up with another WRDA this year.  Previously, Congress has allowed the WRDA authorizations to linger overdue for up to 6 years, even though they are supposed to be reauthorized every two years.

The 2016 WRDA reauthorization is expected to be a modest, slimmed-down version compared to the major reforms that were enacted in 2014.  The 2016 WRDA is focused on holding the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers accountable for implementing the 2014 reforms in a timely manner.  The primary request of the waterways industry in the 2016 WRDA is to redefine what constitutes a major rehabilitation project on the inland waterways transportation system.  Current law defines “major rehab” as any operation and maintenance on a lock & dam exceeding $20 million.  Any work performed at a lock or dam costing less than $20 million is funded from the USACE Operations & Maintenance account.

Once the cost exceeds $20 million, then the revenue is derived from the Construction account, which is funded 50% from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. The current definition creates an incentive for USACE to withhold initiating routine maintenance until such time as the aggregate cost exceeds $20 million, therefore initiating the IWTF cost-share (and therefore limiting the IWTF’s ability to address capital improvements).   Raising the threshold to $50 million will keep scarce construction dollars dedicated to modernizing an outdated transportation system.

Including Waterways in Any/All Discussions of Infrastructure Investment

Policymakers often express support for increasing investment in infrastructure and various proposals have been introduced that offer different ideas on how or where to generate funding to pay for infrastructure improvements.  However, these proposals usually include only highways, transit, and energy infrastructure – not waterways.  ASA urges policymakers to include waterways in any discussions or proposals that would provide significant funding investments in infrastructure.


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