The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed water resources infrastructure legislation by an overwhelming margin of 412-4. The bill authorizes about $12 billion in channel deepening at several ports, maintenance dredging of ports, lock and dam upgrades on inland waterways, flood protection and eco-system restoration by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but expenditures are subject to future appropriations.
The Water Resources Reform and Development Act devotes considerable attention to reforms aimed at cutting federal red tape and bureaucracy, streamlining the project delivery process, prioritizing projects and controlling spending by deauthorizing old projects that never got funded.
"This legislation supports our water transportation network to keep our nation competitive, improve the flow of commerce and provide a foundation for job growth," House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, who won his Republican primary the same day, said in a statement.
“WRRDA will ensure that America maintains and expands upon our competitive advantage, not just today but in the years to come,” Rep. Bob Gibbs, chairman of the T&I water resources and environment subcommittee said. “This WRRDA is unlike any previous bill passed by Congress. The reforms we have made are unprecedented and will provide a layout for future WRRDA bills to come. We wrote this bill without compromising our key principles: maintaining fiscal responsibility, streamlining studies and reviews of projects, removing all earmarks and maintaining Congress’ role in determining our nation’s infrastructure projects. At its core, WRRDA is a bipartisan bill and will ensure that American maintains its navigable waterways for the future.”
Features of the bill, which is expected to be voted on by the Senate on Thursday, include:
- hard deadlines on the time and cost of studies
- consolidating and eliminating duplicate studies
- streamlining environmental reviews
- sun-setting new authorizations to prevent future project backlogs
- establishing a transparent review process for future projects
- giving non-federal interests the ability to contribute funds to move studies and projects forward
Business groups hailed the legislation's passage.
WRRDA "is a major victory for ports" because it includes changes to the cost-share requirements for maintaining deeper channels and sets a path to full use of the Harbor Maintenance Tax, the American Association of Port Authorities.
The American Soybean Association said the legislation is critical to ensuring reliable waterways for moving goods to market.
Read more details about WRRDA here