The House and Senate have given final approval to a Conference Committee Report, which settled differences in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1999. This legislation allows numerous projects to advance or be initiated.
For instance, the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) can move into the next phase of harbor deepening in projects at the Ports of Brunswick and Savannah.
“Authorization of the Brunswick project puts it on an immediate track to construction, projected to start next year pending schedule and funding issues,” said Doug J. Marchand, GPA executive director. “Deepening the Brunswick channel to 36 ft. will save carriers and shippers more than $5.6 million annually. Combined with the completion of the new Sidney Lanier Bridge, this project will open the Port of Brunswick to its full potential as a major South Atlantic seaport. “With regard to the Savannah project, this authorization qualifies the project for federal cost sharing for the feasibility, design and construction phases. It is also a strong Congressional affirmation of what will be the most extensive environmental assessment ever conducted on the Savannah River, and among the most extensive environmental reviews for any harbor deepening project
in the nation.
“The final design and construction of the Savannah project is contingent on the results of this regulatory and environmental review, a process which will take approximately 16-18 months,” said Marchand. “Construction is also contingent on Congressional appropriations and a favorable review by the Secretary of the Army.”
In Florida, the passage of WRDA ’99 aids the restoration of Brevard County Beaches in Port Canaveral and Brevard County.
The bill directs the USACE to examine and readjust the cost-share of the Brevard County Beach project, which will ensure the federal government assumes the full cost of mitigating the damage to Brevard’s beaches, which was caused by the installation of the port’s federal navigation channel 50 years ago. Estimates by the County indicate this would change the current cost share of the project (53 percent federal and 47 percent local) to approximately a 75/25 split for federal and non-federal costs, respectively.
The Canaveral Port Authority, in collaboration with U.S. Representative Dave Weldon, U.S. Senator Connie Mack and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, has worked diligently to incorporate in the bill, language necessary to bring the Brevard Beach project to fruition.
“The bill puts the responsibility of mitigating the cost of erosion damage where it belongs…on the federal government,” said Ralph Kennedy, Canaveral Port Authority commissioner.
The local projects included in WRDA ’99 “are all common sense solutions to our local environmental needs,” said U.S. Representative Dave Weldon. “The WRDA ’99 bill has allowed us to make major strides in protecting our environment.” A companion to the bill is the appropriations for the Brevard Beach restoration project, which has already passed the House and Senate. The House and Senate Appropriations Conference Committee will meet to decide how much funding will be available for the first phase of the county-wide project. The final appropriations bill is expected to authorize between $1-$5 million for the project.