Ag Policy Blog

Funding Change in WRDA Bill Expected to Increase Inland Waterway Projects

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Barges dock on the lower Mississippi River in Louisiana. The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) that would increase funding available for inland waterway projects through a shift in cost-share for such projects. (DTN file photo)

A change in the funding formula for inland waterway projects could add $100 million annually to waterway infrastructure spending as the House of Representatives approved a new Water Resources Development Act on Tuesday.

The bill, commonly known as WRDA, will lower the funding cost share for the Inland Waterways Trust Fund from 50% to 35%, and increase the costs from general federal revenue for those projects from 50% to 65%. The shift in cost share will boost the number of projects that can be funded annually.

"It will provide about an additional $100 million each year for construction projects for inland waterways," said Tracy Zea, president and CEO of the Waterways Council Inc. "Over ten years, it will provide an additional $1 billion."

For farmers and grain elevators, that extra funding will help the Army Corps of Engineers address long-term navigational improvements on the upper Mississippi River and Illinois River that comes under the Corps' Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program, Zea said.

The bill passed the House by a voice vote, but is expected to be tacked onto a funding bill in the Senate next week that must be passed before Congress adjourns. The Corps also will conduct a comprehensive study of the lower Missouri River basin as well.

The bill would authorize 46 new waterway projects nationally, ranging from port upgrades to improving locks, dams and flood gates, as well as 27 different feasibility studies for future projects.

After repeated flooding along the Missouri and Mississippi River systems, Iowa congressmen pointed out new provisions that will give the Army Corps of Engineers more authority to aid communities facing repeated flood threats. The provision effectively shifts guidelines for calculating cost-benefit ratios when dealing with flood control projects. Other provisions are meant to reduce red tape to begin more quickly working on flood-control projects as well.

Environmental Defense Fund stated the WRDA bill would address projects to improve natural infrastructure that would improve community resiliency and lower flood risks. “In reauthorizing WRDA, the U.S. House prioritized solutions, such as natural infrastructure, that will better protect communities from flooding, while also creating jobs and restoring vital ecosystems from our coasts to the heartland," said Elizabeth Gore, a senior vice president of political affairs for EDF.

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