New Michigan Lock Funded in 2020 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Budget

Credit: Sault Ste. Marie Pure Michigan
Credit: Sault Ste. Marie Pure Michigan

By The Maritime Executive 03-12-2019 05:23:08

For the first time, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has purposefully budgeted funds to construct a new large lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. The funding was announced in the agency's Fiscal Year 2020 budget which was released on Tuesday.

While the agency did not budget for the project last year, Congress increased the Corps' overall budget, and $32.38 million of those extra funds were assigned to the project to begin first-year construction. Additionally, the State of Michigan has provided $52 million to the project. 

Agency officials have indicated that second-year construction will require $84.1 million in FY 2020. Congress might provide additional funds to the project to fully fund second-year construction, or the Corps has the option of deploying remaining contributions from the State of Michigan.

The authorized project cost is $922 million with an expected construction timeline of 10 years. As both the Corps and the Congress continue to fund the project on schedule, costs are expected to remain within estimates. Should future funding not be forthcoming, the overall project cost can skyrocket due to delays and inflation. This has happened on other large Corps construction projects such as the Olmsted Lock and Dam on the Ohio River.
Overall, the budget includes $4.827 billion in gross discretionary funding for the civil works program of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a 31 percent cut from the FY19 appropriated amount of $7.0 billion. Waterways Council Inc. President & CEO Mike Toohey said, “Not unexpected based on past Office of Management and Budget requests from any Administration, the FY20 proposal is still very disappointing considering the President’s many positive pronouncements on the importance of infrastructure investment.”

New federal funding in the Civil Works budget consists of $3.753 billion from the General Fund of the Treasury, $965 million from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), $56 million from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF), and an estimated $54 million from Special Recreation User Fees.

The FY 2020 funding will be distributed among the appropriations accounts as follows:

$1.930 billion for Operation and Maintenance (O&M)
$1.170 billion for Construction
$965 million for Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF)
$210 million for Mississippi River and Tributaries (MR&T)
$200 million for the Regulatory Program
$187 million for Expenses
$77 million for Investigations
$56 million for Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF)
$27 million for Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies
$5 million for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works

The budget includes $2.308 billion for the study, design, construction, operation and maintenance of inland and coastal navigation projects.

The investigations program as a whole is funded at $82 million, including $5 million from the Mississippi River and Tributaries account, of which $26 million is to fund studies to determine the need, engineering feasibility, and economic, environmental and social return of potential solutions for water and related land resources problems. 

The investigations account includes funding to complete one pre-construction engineering and design (Mobile Harbor, AL), and three dredged material management plans (Buffalo Harbor, NY, Cleveland Harbor, OH and Corpus Christi Ship Channel, TX). 

Four construction projects are funded to completion in the budget. They include three commercial navigation projects – Charleston Harbor, SC; Locks and Dams 2, 3, and 4, Monongahela River, PA; and Melvin Price Lock and Dam (Deficiency Correction), IL & MO; and one aquatic ecosystem restoration project – Mud Mountain Dam, WA. 

The 10 highest funded construction projects are: Charleston Harbor, SC ($138 million); Savannah Harbor Expansion, GA ($130 million); Locks and Dams 2, 3 and 4, Monongahela River, PA ($111 million); Sault Ste Marie (Replacement Lock), MI ($75 million); the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration (Everglades), FL ($63 million); Rough River Lake, KY (Major Rehab) ($50 million); American River Common Features, Natomas Basin, CA ($59 million); Lower Mississippi River Mainstem (MR&T) ($57 million); Corpus Christi Ship Channel, TX (Main Channel and Barge Lanes) ($53 million); and Columbia River at the Mouth, OR & WA ($36 million).

The FY 2020 O&M program as a whole is funded at $3.025 billion, including $1.930 billion in the O&M account, $947 million in the HMTF account and $148 million in the MR&T account. The budget emphasizes performance of existing projects by focusing on supporting current traffic levels at coastal harbors and inland waterways with the most commercial traffic. 

The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund provides $965 million for maintenance work with an emphasis on supporting the transportation of cargo at current levels at the 50 largest U.S. coastal ports, which handle around 90 percent of the waterborne cargo shipped to or from the U.S.

The next step is for Congress to hold hearings on the budget proposal and then develop appropriations legislation to enact these amounts into law. In past years, Congress has typically approved those projects included in the original Corps budget.