House easily approves waterways bill

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, May 21, 2014 - The U.S. House of Representatives easily passed the bipartisan Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) conference report on Tuesday by a whopping 412-4 margin. Without using earmarks, the measure authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out its missions to develop, maintain, and support the Nation's vital port and waterways infrastructure needs, and supports flood protection and environmental restoration.

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“This is a big win for bipartisanship in Washington, D.C.,” noted Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., who cosponsored H.R. 3080, the WRRDA bill.

“This legislation supports our water transportation network to keep our Nation competitive, improve the flow of commerce, and provide a foundation for job growth,” noted House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-PA. “WRRDA is also the most policy and reform-focused measure of its kind in decades, and the most fiscally responsible water resources bill in history……..This is legislation that's good for the economy, good for jobs, and good for America.”

“This bipartisan jobs bill will revitalize our inland waterway system so that bulk commodities such as West Virginia coal can be transported more efficiently,” said Ranking Member Nick Rahall II, D-W.V. “Critically, this bill expands the Buy America requirements placed on future Army Corp projects, ensuring that more of our Nation's infrastructure is made in America by Americans.

As we noted in our report last week, the bill authorizes dozens of new projects, while removing authorizations for about $18 billion in previously approved projects. The measure significantly expands the ability for non-federal interests to get involved in funding studies, permits and project implementation.

Although groups like Heritage Action criticized the measure for failing to address “the root problems of poor prioritization, outdated analysis, and a sprawling mission,” most major farm organizations voiced strong support for the legislation

The American Farm Bureau Federation, which tracked the vote as part of its legislative scorecard, described passage of the bill as a priority issue.

“WRRDA will bring $6 billion in total cost savings and important reforms to ensure the reliability and strength of our nation's inland waterways and ports,” noted AFBF President Bob Stallman in a statement.

National Corn Growers Association President Martin Barbre praised the U.S. House of Representatives for its vote, while noting that, “WRRDA is crucial to farmers as more than 60 percent of the nation's grain exports are transported by barge. The locks and dams we depend upon to transport our cargoes today were built in the 1920s and 1930s. It is imperative that we improve this crucial infrastructure.”

American Soybean Association President Ray Gaesser said the conference report includes multiple soybean industry priorities including provisions that will free up significant funding within the Inland Waterways Trust Fund for additional waterways infrastructure projects; increasing the level of Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund dollars that will be spent on port maintenance and dredging and promoting the use of alternative financing and public-private partnerships to fund waterways infrastructure.

“Now it's on to the Senate and to the President's desk.”

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