Lower Mississippi Dredging Project Moving Forward

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The dredge Wheeler on the southern Mississippi River is operated by the New Orleans District of the Army Corps of Engineers and is the largest hopper dredge operated by the Corps. The Corps has received funding that would work to deepen the Mississippi Ri

Posted February 12, 2020

While President Donald Trump’s budget released Monday proposed cuts to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects in 2021 and beyond, Army Corps the same day delivered to Congress its fiscal year 2020 Work Plan for the Army Civil Works program with a list of specific projects that will receive funding.

“I am very happy to report the lower Mississippi River deepening project was included on the list,” Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Council, said in an email.

Steenhoek noted that the plan includes funds to initiate construction to deepen the Mobile Harbor in Alabama and the Mississippi River Ship Channel from Baton Rouge to the Gulf in Louisiana.

“This is obviously very welcome news for soybean farmers and all the industries that benefit from the #1 U.S. port region by volume,” Steenhoek said.

U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., also issued a news release Monday announcing $85 million in spending to deepen the Mississippi River. The president's budget for FY 2021 also includes another $45.7 million for the project, the Associated Press reported. The State of Louisiana also is expected to contribute more than $100 million for the project.

Steenhoek noted that on December 20, President Donald Trump signed into law the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, which includes the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.

The act provides $7.65 billion in FY 2020 appropriations for the Army Civil Works program, of which $7.197 billion is appropriated in five accounts: Investigations; Construction; Operation and Maintenance; Mississippi River and Tributaries; and the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program.

Waterways Council Reacts to Budget

The Waterways Council Inc., which represents waterways carriers, shippers, port authorities, agriculture, labor and conservation organizations, shipping associations and waterways advocacy groups, called President Donald Trump’s budget provisions for inland navigation “astonishingly inadequate.”

The council said the Trump budget for fiscal year 2021 “provides $0 for construction of ongoing priority navigation projects cost-shared through the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF); cuts funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works Mission by 22% ($5.967 billion, a $1.7 billion decrease from the FY20 enacted level); and proposes $1.8 million in new user fees on commercial waterways operators.”

Last fiscal year (FY20), Congress appropriated $335 million for four projects funded by the Inland Waterways Trust Fund under construction on the inland waterways system, enabling efficient funding for Kentucky Lock (Kentucky), Chickamauga Lock (Tennessee), and funding to completion for Olmsted Locks and Dam (Illinois/Kentucky) and the Lower Mon Project (Pennsylvania), the group said.

“If the president’s FY21 budget is accepted, these construction projects would shut down for one fiscal year, workers would be laid off, and costs would increase when the projects are restarted,” WCI said.

“While the president’s FY21 budget represents the administration’s priorities, WCI is extremely disappointed and absolutely astonished at no investment in rebuilding the Nation’s critical inland waterways transportation system,” WCI President and CEO Mike Toohey said.

“No president has ever proposed zero infrastructure investment. Are we to lay off the workers constructing the projects now underway? Where is the 29-cents-per-gallon fuel tax money that users pay going, while the administration seeks $180 million in additional annual fees with no plans to spend it? Where is the shame?

“The budget will hopefully be considered dead on arrival in Congress, and I will offer to members of the House and Senate to provide the shovel and the preacher.”

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at jhagstrom@njdc.com

Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport

Source: dtnpf.com