President’s FY2024 Budget Prioritizes Great Lakes Navigation
New details have been provided about President Biden’s FY2024 budget proposal. The budget, which was released on March 9, includes several important programs for the Great Lakes region.
Great Lakes Region
The White House has proposed $55 million in the Coast Guard’s budget for first-year acquisition funds for a new Great Lakes heavy icebreaker. This amount exceeds the $40 million originally requested by industry advocates. The budget also includes a surprise addition by providing $5 million for the Great Lakes Authority, a new regional economic development agency created by Congress only three months ago. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) has championed the agency’s creation and led a bipartisan Congressional coalition to secure its authorization. If approved by Congress, first-year funds provided in the President’s budget will help establish the authority’s board and staff.
The budget also proposes $40.29 million for the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, including $16.3 million for the agency’s ongoing infrastructure improvement program. Last year, Congress provided $38.5 million for the agency.
Surprisingly, construction funds for the Soo Lock project were left out of the budget proposal. The budget does include a new $235 million funding category called “project cost increase reserve,” which appears to be a bucket of money for the Corps to later assign to specific projects that have gone up in cost. Hypothetically, a project like the Soo Lock could be assigned a portion of these funds. In fact, the budget document cites the Soo Lock as an example of the kind of project that might qualify.
Army Corps of Engineers – Operation & Maintenance
The Biden Administration has proposed a total of $1.683 billion from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) for the Corps’ deep draft coastal navigation O&M program. Of this total, $275 million will be spent in the Great Lakes. These funds are used for harbor and channel dredging, repair of breakwaters and jetties and lock maintenance. A breakdown of the funding proposed in the Great Lakes can be found here.
Port Infrastructure Grants
The White House has asked Congress to approve $300 million for the Maritime Administration’s Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP). The program was funded at $212 million last year. In addition to this funding, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) provides $450 million each year for PIDP between FY2022-26. These IIJA funds have already been approved and are not dependent on annual appropriations.
Marine Highway Program
The Biden Administration has proposed $11 million for the Maritime Administration’s “America’s Marine Highway Program.” This is a $1 million increase from last year’s funding level of $10 million.
Congress will consider the funding levels proposed by the Biden administration, with FY2024 appropriation bills expected to be completed before the beginning of the fiscal year on October 1, 2023. Congress typically misses the fiscal year deadline and usually enacts appropriation bills just prior to Christmas.
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