Closeup of lock and dam along the Mississippi

(Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

Water Resources Development Act included in appropriations bill

January 12, 2021

By Mike Steenhoek, Soy Transportation Coalition

Included in the $2.3 trillion “Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021” (H.R. 133) that was signed into law by President Trump on December 27th was the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2020. Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 was primarily comprised of a $900 billion COVID-19 emergency relief package and government appropriations for fiscal year 2021.

WRDA 2020 included a priority for the agricultural and barge industry – adjusting the cost-share for lock and dam construction and major rehabilitation projects. Heretofore, the cost share for such projects was 50% federal government and 50% Inland Waterways Trust Fund. The passage of WRDA 2020 adjusted the cost share to 65% federal government and 35% Inland Waterways Trust Fund. This cost-share adjustment will apply to projects that have construction starts between fiscal year 2021 and 2031. 

The Inland Waterways Trust Fund was established to help underwrite the costs of construction and major rehabilitation of the nation’s inland waterway system. Funds are generated via the Inland Waterways Tax – a $0.29 per gallon assessment on diesel fuel used on 27 stretches of the country’s inland waterway system. The 12,000 miles of fuel taxed waters include most of the nation’s largest rivers: the Mississippi, Ohio, Illinois, the lower Missouri, and the Gulf and Atlantic Intracoastal waterways.

The fund annually generates approximately $110 - $120 million per year via the Inland Waterways Tax. These funds are, in turn, combined with revenue from the U.S. Treasury. The total is directed toward construction and major rehabilitation projects. The U.S. Treasury assumes 100 percent of the costs of operations and maintenance.

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