Bill would eliminate navigation contributions toward inland waterway infrastructure
Editor’s note: The following is an e-mail from Olivia Dorothy, regional conservation coordinator for the Upper Mississippi River Initiative, Izaak Walton League of America, regarding a house bill aimed at eliminating “navigation contributions toward inland waterway infrastructure.”
Tomorrow the House Transportation Committee will be voting on the WAVE4 Act, which will all but eliminate navigation contributions towards inland waterway infrastructure. I’m sorry this is such short notice. Below is language you can use when contacting Representatives on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Attached is a spreadsheet with the Committee member names and email addresses for the Chiefs of Staff. If you have time, please reach out to the Committee and let them know you OPPOSE HR 4342.
Vote NO on H.R. 4342!
The WAVE4 Act (H.R. 4342) will shift the burden for funding costly inland waterway infrastructure expenses onto taxpayers, possibly leaving taxpayers on the hook for over $10 billion over the next 20 years! The WAVE4 Act will not fund necessary work to maintain the locks and dams and increase the backlog of infrastructure projects.
Oppose H.R. 4342 because it
1. Eliminates cost share for dam construction and rehabilitation.
Currently, dam rehabilitation and construction are funded through a 50-50 cost share between taxpayers and the Inland Waterway Trust Fund. Navigation argues that they should not pay to maintain and construct dams because other user groups benefit from the dams. But, the dams were built and continue to be maintained primarily for navigation. In this tough economic time, the federal government cannot afford for industry to reduce their contribution.
2. Eliminates cost share for lock rehabilitation.
H.R. 4342 states that navigation will contribute 50% of the cost of lock rehabilitation over $100 million, but it’s a trap! Their have been 16 lock rehabilitation projects since the Inland Waterway Trust Fund was established and the average cost of a lock rehabilitation project is $30 million. No lock rehabilitation project has ever approached $100 million and no future lock project is expected to cost $100 million. So, this is just another attempt to push even more costs onto taxpayers and increase the federal deficit.
3. Eliminates cost share for cost overruns.
Cost overruns are a certainty for every Corps construction project. Projects on the Ohio River have seen overruns of 100% to over 200%. Most of these overruns are due to poor planning and inadequate funding. So, instead of punishing taxpayers and forcing the federal government to pick up the tab, the Corps needs to improve their planning process and produce more reliable cost estimates.
4. Increases the fuel tax to only $0.26 per gallon.
The Inland Marine Transportation System (IMTS) Team calculated that a tax increase to $0.50 per gallon would be necessary to fund their $15 billion wish list of projects, called the 20-year Capitol Investment Strategy. But, instead of a good faith attempt to help reduce the project backlog, they are only offering to fund lock expansion. At least on the upper Mississippi River, locks are currently functioning at less than half their capacity on most of the river. Navigation traffic would have to double before lock expansion would be economically justified.
5. Recommends the Army adopt the IMTS Team 20-year investment strategy.
The 20-year investment strategy lists almost 150 lock and dam construction and rehabilitation projects that will cost $15 billion over the next 20 years. But, if H.R. 4342 passes, navigation will contribute only $5 billion for these projects, while taxpayers will be on the hook for $10 billion plus the cost of overruns! If the cost overrun trend continues, this could mean that taxpayers could be on the hook for $20-30 billion over the next 20 years. Several of the projects on the list have not been funded by Congress because they are not economically justified. Instead of increasing costs for unnecessary projects that are environmentally damaging, let’s re-evaluate project priorities, planning and funding to alleviate the backlog of projects.
Response to the Briefing Memo for the Hearing “How Reliability of the Inland Waterways System Impacts Economic Competitiveness”
The Briefing Memo and find it full of misrepresentations and misinformation. Therefore we are providing a short list of bulleted fact checks to supplement the Committee. Below is a listing of several of the erroneous or misleading statements contained in the Briefing Memo countered by the facts:
Misrepresentation: Barges are more fuel efficient and less polluting than other means of transportation.
Fact: Barges are no more efficient than average trains and when compared with unit trains barges are significantly less efficient than trains. Since pollution is directly calculated from fuel efficiency, barges also have no advantage over trains in this respect.
Misrepresentation: Barge cost savings of $12.00 per ton over alternate overland modes
Fact: Barges are heavily subsidized; at least 90 percent of the systems costs are paid for by the U.S. taxpayer, by far the most subsidized mode of transportation. If the navigation industry paid an equivalent cost for constructing and maintaining the Inland Waterways System as the rail industry must for the rail system the Inland Waterways System users’ savings would be significantly reduced, possibly completely disappear. The navigation industry also pays nothing towards the restoration of the rivers that the system it uses has severely damaged; again this cost is paid solely by the taxpayers.
Misrepresentation: Condition of the Inland Waterways System, “nearly 60% of these facilities have been in service for longer than 50 years, while almost 40% are more than 70 years old.”
Fact: the vast majority of the locks have been rehabilitated, all of the locks on the Upper Mississippi River (UMR) have been rehabilitated within the last 20 years and have decades of useful life remaining. Each completed rehabilitation extends that useful life and allows the facility to function efficiently; the locks are not falling apart.
Misrepresentation: The lockage delays on the UMR and Illinois River are severe.
Fact: The Inland Waterways System has no scheduling system, the only major transportation system in the country that does not have a system. We schedule planes and trains but the navigation industry seems to be incapable of setting up a logical schedule system to improve its efficiency. However, because barge transportation has dropped so dramatically over the last decade or so on the UMR there has been decreased interest by the Corps of Engineers to pursue this useful measure. Also, the Benefit-Cost calculations for the proposed new 1,200 locks on the UMR are essentially negative – the completion of the locks would cause U.S. taxpayers a significant loss on their funding of the project.
Misrepresentation: The decline in the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) to near zero creating a backlog of authorized yet unconstructed projects. Since 1986 the time to complete projects has dramatically increased.
Fact: The IWTF, which was not used to pay for Inland Waterways System projects until 1986, has never had an adequate contribution from the navigation industry to support the enormous wish list of the industry. The current $0.20 fuel tax contribution provides 50 percent of the systems funding but has not been increased for 18 years. Prior to 1986 the taxpayers fully subsidized the Inland Waterways System projects. It is the industries inability or unwillingness to provide adequate funding to the IWTF that has been the cause of the funding restrictions.
Misrepresentation: The need for approving the Inland Waterways Users Board Recapitalization Plan that would increase funding for the system to $380 million annually.
Fact: The Inland Marine Transportation System (IMTS) plan prepared by the Users Board is simply a means to increase the 90 percent subsidy of the Inland Waterways System even closer to the 100 percent that they enjoyed prior to 1986. The removal of all costs obligations for the IWTF related to dams, lock rehabilitations under $100 million (there has never been a lock rehabilitation over $100 million), and project cost overruns while offering a miserly $0.06 increase in the fuel tax is specious at best. This proposal does nothing for the country but increase the burden on U.S. taxpayers by an estimated $200 million per year.
Most of the above facts above were covered in the attached report released in 2010, “Big Price – Little Benefit” that we suggest the committee review before making any decisions on the Inland Waterways System.
Regional Conservation Coordinator
Upper Mississippi River Initiative
Izaak Walton League of America
Posted April 18, 2012
Print This Article