"Congress faces decisions about prioritizing new lock construction projects on the inland waterway system. As both houses debate differing versions of water resources and development bills (S. 2800, H.R. 8) and the FY2019 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill (S. 2975, H.R. 5895), the decision about which of these projects could be undertaken first will likely be among the most controversial issues. The inland waterway system supports barge transportation of heavy raw materials such as grain, coal, petroleum, and construction aggregates. The new locks are needed, according to the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and barge shippers, where existing locks are in poor condition, requiring frequent closures for repairs, and/or because a lock's size causes delays for barge tows. The total estimated cost for the 21 planned lock projects is several billion dollars (many of the individual projects have a cost estimate of between $300 million and $800 million). However, available funding for these projects is about $200 million per year. This is because of limited appropriations and cost-sharing capabilities. Under current cost-share arrangements, the barge industry pays half the cost of construction projects. It does this by paying a $0.29 per gallon fuel tax, which annually generates around $100 million."
CRS Report for Congress, R45211