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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Big Win for Waterways Transportation, but Work Still Needed

May 20, 2014 - The US House today passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014, by a vote of 412 to 4, that authorizes projects relating to water navigation, infrastructure, environment, and flood control, among others. This bill, which was in conference committee for several months, has been a long term priority for KyCorn. The bill will now need to be approved by the Senate.

"WRRDA is vital to the grain industry because it contains measures on inland waterways navigation and transportation," said Russel Schwenke, KyCorn president. "As corn farmers continue to excel in producing more grain and enhancing our global trade initiatives, the pipeline for delivering this grain to our harbors has to be improved. Many of the measures in the WRRDA bill allow for those needed improvements."

In addition to authorization of projects, WRRDA contains four major recommendations of the Inland Waterways Capital Development Plan (CDP), which has been another KyCorn priority since 2010. The CDP is a package of recommendations to improve the vitality of our inland waters system. The four recommendations that WRRDA adopted are:
  • Shifts funding for Olmsted Lock and Dam from 50% to 85% from general fund. Located just downstream of Paducah, Olmsted has suffered from massive delays because of funding interruptions for more than a decade. The WRRDA shift of funding for this project will facilitate a more timely completion and free up $105 million annually from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund for other projects on the waterways system.
  • Redefines major rehabilitation project eligibility for Inland Waterways Trust Fund, increasing the level from $14 million to $20 million and adjusting it annually for inflation. This ensures that the limited resources of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund are spent more effectively on projects based on strategic set of criteria.
  • Allows for projects to be prioritized based upon risk of failure and economic benefit to the nation. This reduces the ability for focus to be diverted to projects of lesser impact (often times for political purposes) when a project that is more vital to the entire system needs attention.
  • Ensures project delivery improvements for the US Army Corps of Engineers to achieve on-time and on-budget performance. 
"It is important to understand that WRRDA is an authorization bill, not a funding bill," said Adam Andrews, KyCorn programs director. "WRRDA does not include a funding mechanism recommended by the CDP. KyCorn will still be working hard to seek acceptable funding measures for these authorized projects. In the coming months, we'll be looking to our grassroots network to encourage Congress to adopt an acceptable funding measure. We have some irons in the fire on that."

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