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Exports at Stake Without WRDA Passage

August 2, 2013
By: Tyne Morgan, Ag Day TV National Reporter
Mississippi River barge
  

The Water Resources Development Act provides funding for U.S. waterways, including locks, dams and dredging.

As Congress finishes up work before its summer recess, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) remains on the table. WRDA is the legislation that provides funding for U.S. waterways, including locks and dams and dredging.

While the legislation could be taken up on the House floor this fall, the Senate passed their version in May. Debra Colbert, senior vice president of the Waterways Council, says the House has finished drafting its version of the bill, but she’s yet to see the legislation.

"What the industry is pushing for is those process delivery reforms with the Corp of Engineers," says Colbert. "We're also calling for the removal of Olmsted and we're also calling for an increase in the user fee that we pay from the current 20 cent per gallon of diesel fuel that's burned on the system to between 26 and 29 cent per gallon."

Colbert says the Olmsted Project is in Kentucky and the Ohio River. It's aimed to establish a state-of-the-art lock-and-dam system. Funding was first put into place in the 1980s with an original price tag of $775 million. She says due to engineering issues and other complications, that price tag is now more like $3.2 billion and still not complete.

"We would like to see that Olmsted Project removed from: inland waterways trust fund, that only about 300 tow operators pay into , because if it's not removed, we'll never be able to finish any other projects on the system, and it could draw out until about 2090," says Colbert.

Currently, she says there are more than 25 locks and dams projects on a high priority maintenance list. Colbert says if funding for the Olmsted project continues in WRDA, then it will continue to eat away at the money available to fix the crumbing infrastructure system on U.S. waterways.

For Colbert, failure to pass WRDA means U.S. exports will be at stake.

"We hear daily about China's trillions of dollars in reinvestment and South America's investment," she says. "That gap will close, and we're starting to see it now."

 

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