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House appropriators boost funding for inland locks and dams upgrades

House appropriators boost funding for inland locks and dams upgrades

   The House Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development approved $415 million in fiscal 2007 funding on Wednesday for critical lock and dam upgrades on the inland waterways.

   This exceeds President Bush’s proposed fiscal 2007 budget of $385 million for lock and dam modernization projects. The House Appropriations Committee added $18 million for work on the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal in Louisiana; $10 million for the Kentucky Lock addition on the Tennessee River; and $2 million for the J.T. Myers Lock and Dam on the Ohio River between Indiana and Kentucky. These projects were left unfunded in President Bush’s proposed budget package.

   The federal budget for lock and dam projects is partially funded by the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. To support the trust fund, private sector users of the inland waterways pay the federal government a diesel fuel tax of 20 cents per gallon.

   Waterway transportation interests praised the House Appropriations Committee’s action to boost funds to improve the nation’s aging locks and dams.

   “Particularly during wartime the appropriations process creates difficult choices, but the action of the committee substantiates the goal of keeping the nation strong and economically competitive,” said R. Barry Palmer, president and chief executive officer of the Washington-based Waterways Council, in a statement.

   It’s estimated that more than $31 billion in bulk commodities, such as coal, grain, petroleum and chemicals, are shipped annually through the inland waterways.