Inland waterways construction and rehabilitation costs, including for locks, are shared by the federal government through general funds and by users through the Inland Waterways Trust Fund on a 50-50 basis. Operation and maintenance costs for inland waterways are covered in full by the federal government.
The Inland Waterways Trust Fund is supported by a 29 cents per gallon tax on barge fuel, and cannot exceed expenditures in a given year. In April 2015, this user tax was increased by 9 cents for the first time since 1995 upon the urging of the Inland Waterways Users Board, in order to increase investment in the system.
The USACE estimates overall investment needs of $4.9 billion over the next 20 years.
Thanks to recent increases in investment and project prioritization, there has been some improvement in the projected completion date of many inland waterway lock and dam rehabilitation projects. For example, projects once expected to be completed in 2090 are now on track to be completed in 2038. However, for this progress to come to fruition, and the trend to improve, funding must continue at a higher and more consistent level, given the large backlog of needs. One major project, the Olmsted Lock on the Ohio River, depleted available funding for other inland waterways projects. In the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2014, additional federal funding was allocated to free up Inland Waterways Trust Fund money for other projects.Back to Inland Waterways