Washington DC- Following an effort by U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) the U.S. Army Corps has decided to invest $58 million in unallocated dollars to Western Pennsylvania’s locks and dams. The funds, which come from the Agency’s work plan, have received approval from both Congress and the Administration. In late January, Casey wrote the Army Corps urging them to invest the unallocated work plan dollars into the region’s waterways infrastructure. The announcement comes on the heels of a successful Casey effort to invest more dollars into Western Pennsylvania’s locks and dams through passage of his River Act, which was enacted in a water resources bill and an end of the year tax bill. The combined effort will herald a generational change to the region’s waterways infrastructure and provide a stable base of funding for the future. Specifically, Casey’s law included significant reforms that changes the way the government allocates dollars to waterways projects and increases the barge fee that shippers pay on fuel in order to provide more resources.
“Western Pennsylvania’s waterways are a critical component to a healthy economy in our region and throughout the state,” Senator Casey said. “In the last six months we’ve been able to put the region’s locks and dams on a secure footing that will allow for upgrades and growth in the coming years.”
The full text of Casey’s January letter is below:
Dear Assistant Secretary Darcy:
As you work to prepare the Army Corps Fiscal Year 2015 work plan, I write to urge you to increase funding for the Lower Mon project. In order for this project to effectively move forward, we must allocate more funding than the $9.032 million that was included in the Omnibus appropriations bill. A funding level of $64 million would allow construction to begin on the River Chamber portion of the project along with supporting construction on existing contracts. Making a significant investment now will move the project forward, thereby spurring economic growth and job creation in the region for years to come.
During the last Congress, I introduced the RIVER Act, the bulk of which was included in the Water Resources Reform Development Act (WRRDA) that became law. WRRDA’s passage freed up millions of dollars in funding for locks and dams projects across the country and it is critical that the Lower Mon project receive a significant portion of this new funding. The waterways system in southwestern Pennsylvania is suffering from crumbling and aging infrastructure that could seriously impair the transport of major commodities, if not properly maintained. Numerous industries rely on the river to transport their goods and materials. If the waterways system fails, business will suffer and industry would see a significant increase in the cost of moving goods, which will drive up prices and harm the economy. Moreover, independent studies indicate that nearly 200,000 jobs are supported by activity on the waterways in southwestern Pennsylvania, making up nearly 17 percent of the region’s workforce.
I firmly believe that investments in the Lower Mon’s locks and dams are vital to maintaining and creating jobs and supporting commerce. Alternatively, a failure to make a significant investment in this project at this time would have a negative and crippling effect on the economy both regionally and nationally. Thank you for your attention to this matter and for your continued support.
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator