Update – 20 December 2019: President Donald J. Trump signs spending bills, funding all federal agencies and programs for fiscal year 2020.
Update – 19 December 2019: Senate votes 71 – 23 on H.R. 1865. The 8 spending bills pass including the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies.
17 December 2019 – On target and on time, this Congress keeps its eye on the ball and delivers. This afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a sweeping FY 2020 budget. If the U.S. Senate passes the Bill on Thursday (as it is expected to do), and President Trump signs the legislation (as he intends to do), then there will not be a government shutdown. The House vote was 297 in favor to 120 opposed (297-120).
In the House approved domestic appropriations bill is a section titled the “Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2020.” Here, we find many projects related to dredging.
“We are very pleased with the hard work put forward by Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby and House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey,” said William P. Doyle, Chief Executive Officer of the Dredging Contractors of America (DCA). “I know how hard the staff worked in both chambers over the past year and how engaged the White House has been on finding a budgetary path forward – they worked it to the bone, all the way through crunch time, Thanksgiving holiday, and up to today.”
Importantly, the House and Senate leaders agreed to a $377,650,000 regional dredging construction demonstration program as follows:
Regional Dredge Demonstration Program.- To respond more effectively to critical national dredging requirements resulting from significant recurring storm events, in combination with routine annual dredging demands, the agreement directs the Corps to execute a multi-year dredging demonstration program within the Central Gulf Coast Region.
Key features of the program will explore innovative ways of executing dredging in a logical, sequenced manner, unconstrained by more traditional project-specific, account-specific, or single-year practices and 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.
To demonstrate the described multi-year efficiencies, the agreement includes $377,650,000 in a Regional Dredge Demonstration Program funding line item in the Construction account to be used for deep draft navigation projects in the Gulf of Mexico between Louisiana and Alabama within the Mississippi Valley Division and the South Atlantic Division Civil Works boundaries. The Corps shall select one deepening project in each eligible state for inclusion in the demonstration program. Projects that have previously received funding from the Construction account and require no new authorization shall be eligible for inclusion in the demonstration program. Consequently, such projects shall be considered ongoing and shall not require a new start designation. The agreement includes additional funding in the Operation and Maintenance account to support this demonstration program. Operation and Maintenance projects eligible for inclusion in the demonstration program may include Gulf of Mexico states between Florida and Texas, where appropriate. The agreement also includes Senate briefing and reporting requirements.
In addition to the nearly $378M Gulf Coast Demonstration project, 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 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.
To be clear, there is a substantial back-log of funding available for projects from previous years. For instance, the Great Lakes region has a $555 million backlog of Corps maintenance work. This includes a $160 million dredging backlog, a $320 million backlog in breakwater and jetty repairs, and $75 million in Soo Lock maintenance work.
- Within the Corps of Engineers’ budget, the package includes $75.333 million for second-year construction funds for the new Son Lock project. This was the amount requested by the Corps. The legislation includes an additional $50 million “for locks and Corps-owned bridges” not on the inland river system.” According to AGPA, the Soo Lock project will likely receive most of these additional funds in the Corps’ final FY20 work plan. If so, the project is well positioned to remain on schedule.
The federal government’s fiscal year begins on October 1st. This year there was a delay in approving all of the 12 annual appropriations bills. To keep the government operating and provide more time to reach a comprehensive deal, Congress enacted stop-gap funding for all federal agencies until November 21st, and then a second stop-gap measure until December 20th. The legislation approved today in the House is the final FY20 funding agreement. It is expected to be approved by the Senate and signed by the President before the end of the day on Friday, December 20th.
Featured Image Above: (Left to right) Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and ranking member Kay Granger (R-Texas), and Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Capitol Hill. Credit: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Newscom.