FEDERAL SPENDING PACKAGE INCLUDES FUNDS FOR WRDA 2020
Vol. 124 - No. 227- December 23, 2020 Page 1 FEDERAL SPENDING PACKAGE INCLUDES FUNDS FOR WRDA 2020
A federal spending bill which includes resources dedicated to the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2020 has passed both houses of Congress and is awaiting to be signed into law by President Donald Trump. This past Monday, as part of an Omnibus Appropriations and COVID-19 relief funding package, the House of Representatives passed (359-53), and later the U.S. Senate passed (92-6) the bill. Waterways Council, Inc. (WCI) called it a historic win for the inland waterways.
The package included WCI’s top priority to adjust the cost-share for construction and major rehabilitation of inland waterways projects from 50 percent Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF)/50 percent General Revenues to 35 percent IWTF/65 percent General Revenues for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 through FY 2031. Projects whose construction starts between FY 2021-FY 2031 will operate under the adjusted 35 percent/65 percent cost-share for the duration. Particularly in a difficult COVID-19 environment, the passage of WRDA is a significant achievement for efficient modernization of the inland waterways system, potentially providing more than $1 billion in additional construction funds over 10 years that should help significantly reduce the backlog of authorized projects.
The WRDA bill also included a 902 cost-limit increase for Kentucky Lock and a Chief’s Report authorization for the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway – Brazos River Floodgates and Colorado locks. The cost-limit increase allows work on KentuckyLock to continue to completion, and the Chief’s Report allows construction of new sector gates and channel widening to provide for more safe and efficient navigation, and also helps with water and sediment management capabilities on the Brazos River. The WRDA 2020 bill was a rider to the omnibus appropriations bill that included $900 billion for COVID-19 related funding.
The omnibus also included the FY 21 Energy & Water Development (E&WD) appropriations bill that funds the Army Corps of Engineers. Funding for the Corps is $7.8 billion for FY 21, an increase of $145 million above the FY 20 level and $1.8 billion above the Administration’s FY 21 budget. Funding for the Investigations account is $153 million, an increase of $2 million above FY 20’slevel and $50.4 million above the Administration’s request. The Construction account received $2.69 billion, an increase of $11.6 million above FY 20’s funding level and $519.4 million above the FY 21 Administration’s request. With $113 million appropriated from the IWTF, a construction program of just under $323 million will be provided for FY 21. This allows funding of Chickamauga Lock to completion and efficient funding for Kentucky Lock.
The FY 21 funding measure provides for nine new study starts and seven total new construction starts across the Corps’ Civil Works mission. For the first time since 2004, one of the new starts must be for inland waterways lock and dam modernization. The Corps’ FY 21 Work Plan, typically released 60 days after enactment of the appropriations bill, will detail which project will be selected for the new start. Operations and Maintenance received $3.85 billion, an increase of $59.7 million above FY 20’s appropriated amount and $1.8 billion above the FY 21 Administration’s budget.
Also of note is the rejection of any additional and oneroustaxes or fees on commercial operators to supplement existing revenue streams. “Despite the many challenges of this year, WCI is very grateful that Congress passed WRDA 2020 with WCI’s top priority to adjust the construction cost-share, and provided strong FY21 funding for the Corps of Engineers.
This is a win for the Nation, our economy, and shippers and exporters,” said Tracy Zea, WCI President and Chief Executive Officer. “An efficient, modern inland waterways system facilitates U.S. competitiveness in world markets, and this bill’s passage will strengthen our ability to stay on top.”