by Ken Root and Whitney Newman
River Locks on the most important U.S. waterways need modernization but legislation was defeated in the House of Representatives a couple weeks ago due to the notorious bathroom bill.
Planning for the upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers, could still get a boost in fiscal 2017.If that doesn’t work, Army Corps of Engineers locks funding would likely be included in a year-end, catch-all Omnibus spending bill. The industry’s Waterways Council Senior Vice President, Debra Calhoun says that may not be a bad thing.
Fiscal Year 2016 funding levels for locks modernization are actually $30 million higher than in the defeated Fiscal Year 2017 bill. Olmstead, on the Ohio River in Kentucky and near the Illinois border, has slowed work on other inland waterway projects in recent years. An earlier formula change also helped free up bigger funds for other projects.
A bigger question is what happens with other spending bills like Ag and Interior? The clock, shortened by political campaigns and conventions, suggests the answer is another unfinished appropriations process and a year-end catch-all spending bill.