The Bush administration has proposed instituting a fee for barges that use the network of locks and dams on U.S. rivers. The proposal was outlined in the Feb. 5 budget proposal for fiscal 2008, but details aren’t final. Barges now pay a 20¢-per-gallon diesel fuel tax into the Inland Waterway Trust Fund. John Paul Woodley Jr., assistant Army secretary for civil works, says the fund is being depleted. “We can project in a very few years, if trends continue...that the trust fund will be exhausted,” he says.

National Waterways Conference President Worth Hager says a new lockage fee could cost jobs, hurt local economies, discourage use of waterways and increase highway and rail congestion. But she says her group wants to “work with the administration to see if we can find a win-win solution” to improve the trust fund’s health.