By Tracy Zea, President/CEO, Waterways Council Inc.
After months of negotiations and high political drama, late on the night of November 5, the House of Representatives passed the Senate-passed infrastructure bill (H.R. 3684, Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) otherwise known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework.
For the nation’s inland waterways system, this is a historic event that will provide $2.5 billion in full federal funding for the construction and modernization of inland waterways projects. In accordance with the law, the Capital Investment Strategy (CIS) navigation projects will be given priority as the money begins to flow to projects.
When the $2.5 billion is paired with full annual appropriations for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works Mission, two-thirds of the CIS portfolio could potentially be funded to completion over the next five years. This is a generational win for the inland waterways to modernize the system for energy security, increased global competitiveness, and further improvement of our environmental footprint.
Project-specific funding will be allocated in a detailed spend plan by the Corps’ Chief of Engineers and must be submitted to the House and Senate no later than 60 days after the president signed the bill into law, which at press time was expected on November 15.
ALLOCATION OF FUNDS
Starting no later than 120 days after enactment of the bill, the Chief of Engineers will provide a monthly report to the Appropriations Committees in the House of Representatives and the Senate detailing the allocation and obligation of funds, and new construction projects selected to be initiated.
In other good news, the Corps’ Operations and Maintenance account for all business line items within its Civil Works mission will receive $4 billion in this infrastructure bill. While these funds are not directly tied to our industry, inland waterways projects and dredging will be eligible to compete for operation and maintenance funding in the Corps spend plan.
WCI is grateful to Congress passing this historic infrastructure bill. But we especially thank our members for their dogged support of WCI’s work to continually beat the drum to Congress and the administration that the inland waterways are an integral part of the transportation supply chain.
Even after this bill is signed, WCI will continue to tout the importance of the inland waterways system to the nation.
Ahead, WCI will continue to work with the Corps and the Inland Waterways Users Board to ensure that the funding is efficiently spent on the priority projects identified in the CIS and that modernization of the system can truly be completed.
In past writings I have said “the waiting is the hardest part,” but with the passage of this monumental infrastructure bill, the wait was well worth it.