The final conference report also was expected to include language to accelerate Corps project reviews. Environmental groups have worried that the provisions would weaken ecological protections.
Eileen Fretz Shader, American Rivers' director of flood management, said via email: “Our first priority is the environmental review provisions. We’ll be taking a close look at the compromise language to ensure it retains public and resource-agency reviews of water resources projects so they don’t have adverse impacts on the health and well-being of communities and the environment.”
The bill also was expected to have language encouraging increased spending from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which helps pay for dredging projects at U.S. ports.
Doyle says the final version will be some combination of the House and Senate provisions “that are meant to try and drive additional appropriations each year of the now-almost-$2 billion a year that is collected in the ad valorem tax that goes into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.”
Jim Walker, American Association of Port Authorities director of navigation policy and legislation, said via email: “AAPA is very pleased to see the conference committee has reached an agreement on a final water resources bill.”
Walker added, “We are enthusiastically looking forward to how the bill addresses increased use of the Harbor Maintenance Tax and equity to donors as well as expediting navigation channel improvement study completions.”
Industry officials will be looking at how conferees dealt with funding for the Olmsted Locks and Dam project on the Ohio River. The cost estimate has soared to $2.9 billion from a 1987 estimate of $775 million.
Half of Olmsted’s dollars now come from the general fund and half from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. Industry officials have contended that Olmsted’s rising price tag is crowding out trust-fund money for other projects.
The Senate bill called for the general fund to provide 100% of future Olmstead aid; The House bill recommended a 75% general fund/25% trust fund split. A compromise funding ratio was expected to be in the final bill.