Water resources development bills still percolating with conferees

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, March 7, 2014 - Stakeholders in the water resources development game continue to closely watch for a final agreement among conferees trying to resolve differences between House and Senate bills that would reauthorize and reform the programs.

The House's Water Resources Reform and Development Act (H.R. 3080) and the Senate's Water Resources Development Act (S. 601) would allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop, maintain, and support the nation's port and waterways infrastructure needs, and support targeted flood protection and environmental concerns.

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Michael J. Toohey, president of the Waterways Council Inc., said the biggest impediment in getting a final agreement is how to authorize projects through the Corps of Engineers.

Previously, the Corps would authorize a specific project, in a specific location, and for a specific amount of money. “Under the earmark ban, this type of authorization is now out of favor, because it's looked at as something that's done just for back-home special interests and not worthy of federal investment,” Toohey said.

Toohey said lawmakers have figured out a way to deal with the issue, but some senators will have to be told “no” on their projects.

Toohey said he expects to see a final bill in “six weeks at most.” “It's hard to project,” Toohey said. “Yesterday, they were saying two to four weeks. They've done a good job in not sharing details.”

Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, said he heard conferees were close to a deal, but no concrete details were offered. “The consensus is that final passage will be pushed back to May and June,” Steenhoek said.

An aide from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said conferees continue to work and make progress through phone calls and staff level meetings.

Separately, the American Soybean Association recently adopted a resolution calling for the continued maintenance of the waterways that are critical to soybean farmers, while also formalizing the association's support for new lock and dam construction on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, among other projects.

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