U.S. Budget Includes Increased Funds for Dredging Projects

The Fiscal Year 2020 Congressional budget passed both the House and Senate and was signed by the President on December 20.

Included in the domestic appropriations bill is a section titled the “Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2020” that includes many projects related to dredging.

The House and Senate leaders agreed to a $377,650,000 regional dredging construction demonstration program to respond to storm events and maintenance dredging demands. The funding is for the Corps to develop a multi-year dredging demonstration program in the central gulf coast region, selecting one deepening project in each state in this region. The agreement includes additional Operation and Maintenance account funding to be used for demonstration programs in Gulf of Mexico states.

Key features of the program will:

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  • explore innovative ways of executing dredging in a logical, sequenced manner, unconstrained by more traditional project-specific, account-specific, or single-year practices;
  • seek efficiencies and cost savings by evaluating the region as a system to determine when combining work across multiple deep draft commercial navigation projects, across years, or across Construction and Operation and Maintenance accounts is appropriate;
  • By including the Mississippi River Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico (Southwest Pass) and other nearby Gulf Coast commercial navigation projects, the goals of the program are to include being more responsive to dredging demands within the region, while minimizing disruption to critical construction and maintenance dredging requirements enterprise-wide.

In addition to the Gulf Coast Demonstration project, $138 million is available for the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project. President Trump included the $138 million in the President’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget earlier this year, making the project eligible for direct appropriations by Congress for the first time through the Energy and Water Appropriations bill. The project is now fully funded to completion and on track to achieve a 52-foot depth in 2021. Construction began in early 2018.

The following was agreed to by the House and Senate:

  • O&M Deep Draft – $532M (2019 was $475M)
  • O&M Navigation Maintenance – $40.156M (2019 was $23.9M)
  • O&M Inland Waterways – $55M (2019 was $40M)
  • O&M Small, Remote or Subsistence Harbors – $65M (2019 was $54M)
  • O&M Donor – $50M
  • Receipts from Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) nearing 100% (yearly receipts) For the sixth consecutive year, the bill meets the spending targets in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 for appropriations from the HMTF for the Corps of Engineers.
  • Beneficial Use of Dredged Material Pilot Program:  The agreement supports the pilot program authorized in section 1122 of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, 2016 (WIIN Act) (Public Law 114-322).  The agreement provides $7,500,000 for the 10 pilot projects selected to date within Beneficial Use of Dredged Material Pilot Program.

The legislation also includes a $532.5 million of unassigned funds. These funds will be distributed to individual projects by the Corps in its final FY20 work plan.