Inland Waterways Trust Fund

Published Jan. 22, 2013


The Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) was authorized by Congress in 1978 to help pay for major construction and rehabilitation for navigation on the U.S. inland and intracoastal waterways. In 1986 it was modified so the cost for construction and rehabilitation would be shared equally between the IWTF resources contributed by the commercial navigation industry and the General Treasury.

Fuel Tax

The IWTF is funded by a fuel tax levied on commercial towing companies using the inland and intracoastal waterways. The rate has been 20 cents a gallon since 1995.

Trust Fund Management

The Treasury Department is responsible for estimating and investing tax receipts, and administration and accounting of Federal trust funds, including the IWTF. Tax revenues are invested, and IWTF revenues are a combination of tax receipts and interest earnings. The IWTF funds are part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ civil works budget. The Corps is responsible for determining the timing and amount of IWTF expenditures, and the preparation of the annual budget submission to the Office of Management and Budget and Congress.

IWTF Numbers

The initial expenditures from the IWTF occurred in January, 1987, for projects authorized by the Water Resources Development Act of 1986. The two basic sources for IWTF numbers are the annual Budget of the United States, with amounts based on estimates, and Treasury Department reports, issued by the Bureau of Public Debt, which reflect actual book entries.

Depleted Trust Fund

Transfers to the Corps for ongoing construction have exceeded revenues from 2002 through 2009. Additionally, revenues have been flat or declining in recent years. The result has been a steep decline in the IWTF balance and most inland waterway construction projects cost-shared from the IWTF are being curtailed while alternative funding options are sought. IWTF cost-share funding for ongoing construction is being constrained to estimated annual IWTF receipts based on the current fuel tax method. Most IWTF resources are being used for the Olmsted Locks and Dam project on the Ohio River. Without measures that would increase IWTF revenues, most other projects being cost-shared from the IWTF will need to be curtailed pending completion of Olmsted.