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Spending Bill Advances, But Continuing Resolution Looms

September 21, 2019   The Waterways Journal

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Spending bill advances, but Continuing Resolution looms

Waterways Journal Weekly – St. Louis, MO – 9/19/19 – Jim Myers


Washington, D.C. – Members of the waterways industry welcomed a funding boost proposed for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a major spending bill unanimously approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee.


Noting that the bill’s $7.75 billion for the agency’s civil works projects would be $751.5 million over the current level, Waterways Council Inc. described the proposal as a “strong” showing for the Corps.


The American Association of Port Authorities agreed, proclaiming, “Corps Does Well Under Senate Mark-Up.”


That celebration might be shortened, however, by the House Democrats’ introduction of a continuing resolution to extend government funding through November 21.


“While the House did its work, the Senate appropriations committee process is far behind. Because of this delay, we must pass a continuing resolution to avoid another government shutdown,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.).


A stop-gap measure was always a likely possibility for at least some federal agencies because of the time crunch, but members of the waterways industry had held out hope for a quick final vote on the bill funding the Corps.


That hope took another hit when a bid to advance the bill on the Senate floor failed as members of both parties blamed each other for the lack of bipartisanship.


In addition to the boost in funding for the Corps, other provisions highlighted by the Senate panel included those to make full use for the sixth year of the estimated annual revenues from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund and meet the spending targets set in 2014 for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.


Concerning another Senate measure that funds the Department of Transportation, AAPA expressed disappointment the bill funded the Maritime Administration (MarAd) Port Infrastructure Program at $91.6 million, compared to the $225 million in the House bill and current funding of $293 million.


Approved by a subcommittee, that bill could move quickly to a vote of the full committee.


Committee Works On Infrastructure

A key Senate committee kicked off its work on developing its next major water resources development measure with a hearing on improving American economic competitiveness through water resources infrastructure.


Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, cited his panel’s accomplishments on other critical infrastructure such as roads.


“Water infrastructure is also crucial,” Barrasso said.


“America’s water infrastructure helps move goods across the country and prevent catastrophic floods and disasters.”


Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the panel’s ranking member, also welcomed the hearing.


Both men spoke to their interest in passing a water resources bill during the current Congress, which would be in keeping with a recent pattern of passing such bills every two years.


Recalling work on the last bill, Carper referenced reports the committee heard that the Office of Management and Budget micromanages the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and that there is a lack of transparency on the budgeting and project selection process at the Corps.


Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a former committee chairman, used his remarks to describe the impact recent major flooding has had on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System.


Not a single barge has moved from the Port of Catoosa in Tulsa since May 13, Inhofe said, adding that the re-dredging of the channel made necessary by silt deposits may not be completed until November.