The Obama administration is once again proposing a new user fee to pay for capital investments in the inland waterway system, a senior Army official said.
Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, who commands the Corps of Engineers, told a House Appropriations subcommittee this week that the president’s 2013 budget calls for “targeted investments in the nation’s water resources infrastructure,” to support domestic and international trade.
In past years, commercial inland waterways operators strongly resisted an administration proposal to collect a fee from operators each time they transited a lock. Darcy’s testimony does not specify a lockage fee, but refers to a “vessel user fee” to supplement an existing tax on fuel for commercial vessels.
All told, the Corps of Engineers is asking for $1.47 billion for construction, $2.4 billion for operations and maintenance, and $234 million for the Mississippi River and tributaries. It also proposes to use $848 million from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for harbor and channel dredging.
The administration had “grossly underfunded” the corps, Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Freylinghuysen, R-N.J., said. “While this same process happens every year, administration after administration, the disconnect between annual funding levels and the budget request level makes a challenging job even more so for the military and civilian professionals of the corps.”