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Administration Looks to Add Barge User Fee

The Bush administration may charge barge users in order to keep rivers navigable.

As part of his recent budget proposal, President Bush is calling for a new user fee for on commercial barges in order to counter the cost of waterway maintenance.

The barge industry plans to fight the fee, saying they already have steep taxes and other rising costs. Barge operators currently pay a 20 cent per gallon tax on diesel fuel. The money from that tax goes into a trust fund which pays for half the cost of maintaining the nation's locks and dams. The other half of the money comes from the Army Corps of Engineers.

"We'd like to explore user fee concepts, but we don't have a proposal that we're putting out yet," says John Paul Woodley, who oversees the Army Corps of Engineers, according to Dow Jones newswires.

Woodley says the need for more funds comes from a steady decrease in the trust fund along with rising costs of lock and dam maintenance. He says one option would be to tie new fees to barge traffic so that increases in traffic would mean increases in funds.

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