Corps of Engineers to get $1.3 billion funding boost in budget bill

Mississippi River barges pass under the Poplar Street bridge in St. Louis.
Mississippi River barges pass under the Poplar Street bridge in St. Louis. Belleville News-Democrat

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will receive a 27 percent spending boost in a $1.1 trillion budget bill working its way through Congress this week.

Under the bill, the corps will receive nearly $6 billion for its civil works program in 2016, more than the president’s request of $4.7 billion. The bill contains more funding for construction projects to update aging inland waterway infrastructure, including locks and dams on the Mississippi River.

The measure also directs the Comptroller General to study the economic impact of inland ports on the river between St. Louis and Baton Rouge, La. The river is a vital passage for bulk shipments, especially grain, coal and petroleum products.

Mike Toohey, President and CEO of the Waterways Council, an advocacy group, said the extra $1.3 billion in funding “will help modernize our nation’s waterways infrastructure, facilitate exports, create jobs, make more efficient the transportation supply chain and increase American competitiveness in world markets.”

Among other items, the bill provides $2 million in construction funds for the Melvin Price Lock and Dam in Madison County, Ill. The locks handle about 6,000 vessel movements a year, but seepage problems threaten the adjacent Wood River Levee. The levee will receive $50,000.

The bill also includes $1.2 million the president requested for studies of the St. Louis Riverfront and the Kaskaskia River.

Altogether, the budget request President Barack Obama submitted in February contained $121.8 million for projects in the corps’ St. Louis District, including $84.7 million for operations and maintenance of corps facilities.

Curtis Tate: 202-383-6018, @tatecurtis