WASHINGTON, June 10, 2014 – President Obama today signed into law the Water Resources and Reform Development Act (WRRDA), which provides $12.3 billion to improve the nation’s ports and waterways and for flood control projects.
At the White House signing ceremony, Obama said the bill allows 34 water infrastructure projects across the country to move forward, including projects to deepen Boston Harbor and the Port of Savannah, and to restore the Everglades. He called WRRDA “a piece of legislation that’s really going to make a good difference,” saying it will put Americans back to work.
The president also called on Congress to finish work on a surface transportation bill by the end of summer.
“Right now, we should be putting a lot more Americans back to work rebuilding our infrastructure,” Obama said. “We’ve got $2 trillion worth of deferred maintenance that we could be getting done right now.”
If Congress fails to act, he said, “then federal funding for transportation projects runs out by the end of the summer. That means more than 100,000 active projects, nearly 700,000 jobs would be at risk. Fortunately, we’ve got some leaders here who I think can work with us to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
The water resources bill, last reauthorized in 2007, received strong bipartisan support in Congress and was backed by agricultural groups including the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), the American Soybean Association and the National Corn Growers Association.
AFBF President Bob Stallman applauded the bill’s signing. “The ports, channels, locks, dams and other infrastructure that support our waterways transportation are vital to America’s ability to provide affordable agricultural products at home and abroad,” he said in a news release, noting that U.S. waterways transport 60 percent of the nation’s export-bound grain.
The law includes the majority of priorities set by AFBF, including improvements to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) and the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF). The measure also contains a provision that eases the burden on farmers of the EPA's Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure rule.
The Farm Bureau Federation also noted that the IWTF federalizes 85 percent of the costs associated with the Olmsted Locks and Dam project on the Ohio River, freeing up more than $100 million annually to be utilized for other priority projects on the waterways system. This is an increase from the current 50-50 split between federal dollars and funds paid by users into the IWTF.
“We look forward to working with the administration to start implementing the newly passed law as soon as possible,” Stallman said.
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