Details of Omnibus Funding Bill Emerge

Funding for Corps of Engineers’ Navigation Mission Improves

Waterways Council Release
15 January 2014

As the House of Representatives prepares to consider the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, details about the legislation have been made available. The Corps of Engineers program has been funded at $ 5.467 billion, a $646 million increase over the President’s request.

The Construction General Account receives $1.656 billion and provides $163 million for the Olmsted Lock and Dam project.  The legislation also establishes a cost-sharing formula for FY14 funds for Olmsted at 75% General Funds and 25% Inland Waterways Trust Funds.  Other inland navigation construction projects received funding at the President’s requested level: Lower Mon 2, 3, 4, $1.96 million; and Lockport Major Rehabilitation, $11.4 million.

Of special note is the allocation of $81.5 million in additional funding for inland navigation projects along with an authorization for up to four new starts to be selected from inland navigation, flood control and storm damage prevention, and ecosystem restoration programs. One project must be from the ecosystem restoration portfolio while up to two projects may be selected from the other categories.

The Corps of Engineers has 45 days after enactment to select projects for the additional funds.

Very specific guidance is provided to the Corps of Engineers on the use of the additional funds.  A project must have received funding in one of the last three years; will reach a significant milestone or produce significant outputs in 2014; or it is selected as a new start. The Corps must also develop a project rating system, and shall consider giving priority to projects benefitting the national economy or providing enhancement of national, regional or local economic development.  Other factors such as job creation, economic impact on local, regional and national economy if the project is not funded, ability to obligate funds and complete the project, separable element or phase are to be taken into account.

The legislation significantly ramps up spending for port and navigation channel improvements, with $1.0 billion provided from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.   This is a healthy increase from recent levels; about half of the $1.5 billion in annual harbor tax monies have been expended dredging for seaport projects.

UMRA Note: It appears that all increases proposed by the House may be directed to construction, and would not allow restoration of lock operations for recreation.
$1.96 million does nothing to move the Lower Mon project forward significantly.