News Release: Senate Committee Approves McConnell Provisions to Strengthen Kentucky’s Water InfrastructureView Source
May 5, 2022
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced today he secured several priorities to benefit Kentucky in the Water Resources Development Act of 2022 (WRDA 2022) which the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved. The legislation now goes to the full Senate for approval.
This legislation authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to carry out projects across the country that invest in ports, harbors, and inland waterways, build resilient infrastructure, and help preserve the natural environment.
“Kentucky sits at the heart of America’s inland waterways, serving as a national hub for transportation and commerce. Because of this, I’ve worked hard to advance the Commonwealth’s priorities in this year’s water infrastructure legislation to protect our natural heritage, foster development and growth, and help our waterside communities. I’m grateful my Senate colleagues approved these investments in Kentucky’s future and look forward to the full Senate’s consideration of this legislation,” said Senator McConnell.
Senator McConnell secured the following provisions to benefit Kentucky:
Kentucky Lock and Dam
Language instructing the USACE to expedite the completion of the Kentucky Lock addition project in Livingston County, Kentucky. The bill also includes language pausing Appropriations limits on projects, which will allow construction to continue even with possible cost increases.
“For years, I have used my leadership role in the United States Senate to advocate for the completion of the long-awaited Kentucky Lock and Dam project. I have helped secure more than $1 billion for this project, including over $465 million earlier this year through the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The language in this year’s Senate water infrastructure bill will help that project stay on track, even if it is hit by cost overruns driven by inflation. Once finished, the new Kentucky Lock and Dam will allow the Commonwealth to take full advantage of our prime location at the heart of America’s inland waterways system,” said Senator McConnell.
"Each year roughly 25 million tons of product pass through Kentucky Lock, supporting jobs and commerce across the Commonwealth and neighboring states. Completion of the current Kentucky Lock expansion project is paramount to optimizing this critical transportation corridor, and the language in the Senate Water Resources Development Act of 2022 is a much-needed step in the right direction. Senator McConnell is leading the effort to expedite completion of this important project, and I applaud his unwavering commitment and steadfast leadership toward improving the inland waterways system and Kentucky Lock and Dam,” said Crounse Corporation President and CEO Matt Ricketts.
Newport Waterfront Festival Park
USACE authorization to study the construction of the Waterfront Festival Park in Kenton County, Kentucky. The City of Newport seeks to create a new community space along their Ohio River waterfront. This authorization will enable USACE to map out the project, which involves flood management, ecosystem restoration, and recreation.
“Kentucky boasts many waterfront developments that serve as the gathering place of their communities. With the passage of this year’s Senate water infrastructure bill, the City of Newport will be able to coordinate with USACE to build a new waterfront community space of its own. Around the Commonwealth, these projects have fostered development, encouraged recreation, and promoted local pride. I’m proud to help Newport pursue this project to reap all these benefits too,” said Senator McConnell.
“The reclamation and restoration of our riverfront area has been a long-term goal of the City of Newport. This Water Resources Development authorization could provide the means to study the feasibility and impact of any proposed improvements. We truly appreciate the work of Senator McConnell on behalf of Newport and our residents in working to move this project forward,” said Newport City Manager Thomas J. Fromme.
Columbus Belmont State Park
USACE authorization to study and examine bluff stabilization at the Columbus Belmont State Park in Hickman County, Kentucky. The Park sits atop a steep bluff overlooking the Mississippi River and welcomes many visitors from the community and surrounding region. The Park faces significant erosion, so bluff stabilization efforts will help prevent future property loss.
“Columbus Belmont State Park is one of the crown jewel attractions of the Jackson Purchase but has become threatened recently by shifts in the path of the Mississippi River. I am proud to assist this Kentucky landmark in determining the best way to stabilize its bluff and prevent future erosion. These efforts will help ensure the park will be around for generations to come,” said Senator McConnell.
“Today, we received exciting news that Senator McConnell has requested authorization for a feasibility study on the Columbus Belmont State Park bluff project currently under the watch of the Corps of Engineers. Columbus Belmont State Park is one of the most picturesque parks in our great country. In the past few years, severe sloughing of the bluff has led to a dangerous situation affecting Columbus Belmont. We want to thank Senator McConnell and his staff for their tireless work in trying to save our park. It is much appreciated,” said Hickman County Judge-Executive Kenny Wilson.
Three Forks of Beargrass Creek
Acceleration of an ongoing study of three major branches of the Beargrass Creek in Jefferson County, Kentucky. This waterway flows through Louisville, Kentucky, into the Ohio River and currently has a stressed aquatic ecosystem. The study will investigate the restoration of the stream’s flow and wetland habitat and may lead to a planning and design phase to carry out the project.
“My hometown of Louisville is where Kentucky’s urban and natural worlds collide. In addition to promoting jobs and development in our city, I’ve also worked hard to preserve our natural beauty. Just like the Ohio River, Beargrass Creek is an integral part of Louisville and Jefferson County, and I’m glad this year’s Senate water infrastructure bill includes language to help us protect the waterway,” said Senator McConnell.
“This important study of Beargrass Creek will significantly help our community’s endeavor to enhance this highly urbanized stream by reestablishing natural features and crafting a sustainable environment. We look forward to partnering with other local agencies to bring this to fruition. We appreciate the work of Leader McConnell to move this forward in the Senate,” said Tony Parrott, Louisville MSD Executive Director.
Elkhorn Lake Improvement Project
Authorization for repairs to critical infrastructure at the Elkhorn Lake and Elkhorn Creek impoundment dam in Letcher County, Kentucky. The City of Jenkins lies below the Elkhorn Creek impoundment dam – which was built over a century ago and has not received significant improvements since then – and is threatened by the dam’s deteriorating state. These repairs will improve safety at the dam by replacing outdated infrastructure and investigating possible safety risks.
“Kentucky communities have benefitted immensely from the Commonwealth’s extensive series of dams, but these projects must be well-maintained to ensure nearby residents’ safety. I’ve made it a priority to upgrade Kentucky’s lock and dam infrastructure, and I’m glad this year’s Senate water infrastructure bill helps us improve the Elkhorn Creek impoundment dam and protect Letcher County against flooding,” said Senator McConnell.
“For years, residents of my town have worried that their homes and businesses could be threatened by deterioration at the Elkhorn Creek impoundment dam, which protects much of the City of Jenkins from flooding. The authorization announced today will give the go-ahead for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate the necessary repairs to the dam, safeguarding our town. We deeply appreciate Senator McConnell’s work to address this critical problem and support Jenkins’ future development and growth,” said Jenkins Mayor Todd DePriest.
Language that expands the effort to control and prevent the spread of Asian Carp.
“Invasive Asian Carp have already wreaked havoc on Kentucky’s inland waterways and disrupted the recreation and tourism industries that rely on them. I’ve made this issue a priority in the Senate and helped mobilize the federal government to eradicate this destructive fish. I was proud to include language in this year’s Senate water infrastructure bill to keep this endeavor at the top of USACE’s priorities and prevent the future spread of Asian Carp,” said Senator McConnell.
“The spread of Asian Carp is a large problem in my community. I’m glad Senator McConnell recognizes the severity of this issue and is working hard to secure federal assistance for our eradication efforts. The recreation and tourism industries form a large part of Lyon County’s economy and are directly threatened by this invasive species, so we are grateful for his help,” said Lyon County Judge-Executive Wade White.
In addition to these priorities, Senator McConnell also supported the following provisions to benefit Kentucky:
75/25 Cost-Share Adjustment for Major Inland Waterways Projects
Language adjusting the cost-share for major inland waterways projects to 75 percent from the General Fund of the Treasury and 25 percent from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. The cost-share was previously set at 65 percent from the General Fund of the Treasury and 35 percent from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund.
The Inland Waterways Trust Fund receives revenue from an inland waterway user fee paid by commercial barges operating on federally designated waterways. The adjustment announced today will allow the USACE to stretch the Inland Waterways Trust Fund further, injecting more federal dollars into construction projects in Kentucky and around the country.
“Kentucky has some of the best access to our nation’s inland waterways in the country, so I always look for ways to increase federal investment in infrastructure programs with a specific focus on improving inland water transportation. This cost-share adjustment will allow more federal dollars to flow into these types of projects, benefitting states like Kentucky with extensive inland waterway networks,” said Senator McConnell.
Cumberland River Dredging Study
Language instructing USACE to conduct a feasibility study to assess the deepening of a portion of the Cumberland River near Paducah, Kentucky, to increase the fill weight and the number of barges that can travel the river. Senator Paul also requested this project be included in the legislation.
“Paducah prides itself on its riverfront access and has long taken advantage of its prime location to foster trade, transportation, and recreation. With the study authorized in this year’s Senate water infrastructure bill, Paducah will be able to benefit even more from its neighboring waterways by expanding the navigability of the Cumberland River,” said Senator McConnell.