The latest news reports advise that the Water Resources Reform Development Act (WRRDA) has been scheduled for mark up in the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T & I) Committee in one week on Thursday, September 19. Today, Chairman of the T & I Committee Bill Shuster briefed key stakeholders, including the Waterways Council Inc. of which Illinois Corn is a part, on the contents of the bill.
Today we learned that the House version of the bill did not include an increase to the barge fuel tax. However, the bill did include a change in the funding procedure for Olmsted (a change from 50-50 funding from federal government and the Inland Waterways Trust fund to a 75-25 split), which wasn’t as far as the Senate bill reforms go, but at least includes the idea that reforms are needed. The bill also included other needed reforms that industry is in favor of.
The Senate passed their version of a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) on May 15. Although several components of the Capitol Development Plan were included in the Senate version of WRDA, including the removal of the over-budget and long-delayed Olmsted lock and dam project from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, the bill did not include an increase in the barge fuel tax.
Without an increase in the barge fuel tax, an increase which all users are in favor of to provide much needed funding allowing for a public-private partnership to update the lock and dam system, needed lock and dam upgrades will still take years to complete. Without the fuel tax increase, LaGrange Lock and Dam would not be fully operational until 2070.
IL Corn will continue to advocate for:
- An increase in the threshold for major rehabilitation, from the current $14 million to $20 million.
- Prioritization of navigation projects and revamping of the project delivery process.
- The removal of Olmsted lock and dam project from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund.
- An increase in the barge fuel tax.