WJ Editorial

Thanks To Congress, Corps Work Plan Should Move Silt

The Corps of Engineers posted its FY2018 work plan June 7. The plan distributes the additional funding provided in the FY2018 omnibus bill and identifies new starts and feasibility studies for navigation projects, many of whose dredging requirements are extensive and/or have been delayed.

In addition to funds specifically dedicated to particular programs, the Corps has an “extra” undedicated $956 million to spend on navigation projects as it sees fit to make sure that existing projects get finished or accelerated. The plan allocates that money to both coastal and inland navigation projects. Among the inland highlights:

• In the Construction account, additional work plan funding includes $57.58 million for the Soo Locks, Mich. During a visit to Michigan in May, President Trump supported upgrades to the 50-year-old Soo Locks.

• Besides improvement feasibility studies for Miami, Fla., and Tacoma, Wash., the Investigations account includes an additional $23 million for the port of Corpus Christi toward its estimated $327 million channel-deepening project. After waiting 30 years, the port is raising most of the money itself.

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• The Operations and Maintenance (O&M) account distributes $485.68 million of additional congressional program funding for dredging, jetties, dredged material placement facilities and other navigation efforts. In the Chicago area, the O&M account includes $7.1 million for Calumet Harbor, $4.68 million for Chicago Harbor, and $4.381 million for Burns Harbor.

• The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) is funded at $1.3 billion, surpassing the target set by the 2014 Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA). This will help ensure longer-term funding stability for harbor projects as the Corps (perhaps with the help of the National Academy of Science, if that part of the House bill is included in the final version) studies ways to streamline its project delivery process.

The work plan’s release immediately frees the Corps districts to begin execution of this work. (The omnibus appropriations bill was enacted on March 23, 2018; FY2018 began on October 1, 2017).
Among the 39 feasibility studies funded to completion in FY2018 are the Mobile Harbor, Ala.; the Three Rivers, Ark., project; and the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Lock, La.

Projects funded for completion of pre-construction engineering and design in FY2018 includes the Calcasieu Locks in Louisiana and the Sabine-Neches Waterway in Texas.

Out of five construction new starts to be funded for FY2018, one is for major rehabilitation of the LaGrange Lock & Dam on the Illinois Waterway.

The dredging benefits alone from this burst of funding will do much to improve shipping channels and restore them to proper levels in many parts of our inland and port system. As Mike Toohey, chair and CEO of Waterways Council Inc., put it, “Recapitalizing this critical link in the transportation supply chain enables the U.S. to be prepared for expected export growth.”

In this issue of the WJ, R.D. James, secretary of the army–civil works, speaks of his desire to “move dirt” and get projects moving.

Thanks to Congress, the Corps will also be moving a lot of silt.