The Conference Report to H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), was filed in the U.S. House of Representatives today, introduced in the House by Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), Committee Ranking Member Nick J. Rahall, II (D-W.Va.), Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), and Subcommittee Ranking Member Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.).
H.R. 3080 passed the House by a vote of 417 to 3 on October 23, 2013. House and Senate conferees reached agreement on a final measure last week, and now both Houses of Congress must approve the Conference Report in order to send it to the President to be signed into law.
Members of the maritime community such as the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) have voiced strong support for the WRRDA initiative, citing port-related infrastructure as key to U.S. competitiveness.
Welcoming the 2014 WRRDA Conference Committee Report, AAPA President and CEO Kurt Nagle said, “Having waited seven long years since passage of the last water resources authorization bill, our U.S. member ports are extremely pleased to see a final reauthorization bill. Our nation desperately needs this water resources legislation to fortify our infrastructure, create and maintain good-paying U.S. jobs, grow our economy and enhance America's international competitiveness.”
The AAPA said that upon learning the 2014 WRRDA is on its way to Congress for approval, it sent appreciation and congratulations to conference committee leaders Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) for their bipartisan leadership in bringing a negotiated water resources bill to the floor of Congress. Both Boxer and Shuster and were jointly named AAPA’s “Port Person of the Year” in March for advancing this crucial legislation, although both chose to wait to receive their award until the bill made it successfully out of conference for a final vote of Congress.
“This measure will strengthen our Nation’s transportation network, keep America competitive in the global marketplace, and reform and streamline the way we move forward with improvements to our ports, locks, dams, and other water resources infrastructure,” Shuster said. “This legislation is about jobs and our country’s economic prosperity, and I look forward to bringing it back to the House for a final vote.”
“This bill will advance the modernization of America’s waterways and ports—critical corridors of commerce that enable the efficient transport of American-produced commodities, including West Virginia coal,” Rahall said. “The investments made possible by this bill support jobs throughout the nation, on our waterways, our farms and fields, on shop floors and in our mines. WRRDA will lay the foundation for economic growth for many years to come, and I am grateful to my colleagues—House and Senate, Democratic and Republican—who worked so diligently to get us to where we are today. This bill proves that bipartisanship is still alive on Capitol Hill.”
Nagle noted that more than a quarter of America’s annual GDP is accounted for by international trade. “In order to strengthen the U.S. economy, we must ensure these goods can move efficiently in and out of America’s ports, without avoidable and costly delays caused by inadequate or poorly maintained infrastructure. The WRRDA authorization bill helps some of the critical waterside needs facing this nation.”
As noted by the AAPA, the water resources legislation includes a number of provisions that address the needs of America’s seaports. In particular, it:
•Establishes a pathway to full use of the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT);
•Addresses HMT donor equity;
•Modernizes the maintenance dredging cost-share threshold;
•Authorizes new navigation channel improvements;
•Expedites the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ navigation channel study completion process;
•Quickens the pace of project completions by enhancing partnerships.
“The bottom line,” Nagle said, “is this WRRDA bill will help enable the United States to enhance its maritime infrastructure and strengthen its position as a world leader in global trade. AAPA thanks the bipartisan leadership and urges swift final passage and enactment.”
He added, “By finalizing the 2014 WRRDA, conference committee members have demonstrated they recognize the significant benefits more modern, efficient seaport and waterway infrastructure will have on our nation’s economic vitality, job growth and international competitiveness, as well as the value in helping address federal fiscal realities through sizable tax revenues provided by the cargo and trade activity moving through these systems. Increased investments are needed to better maintain and improve the transportation infrastructure on our three coasts and the Great Lakes, linking America to the global marketplace.”
Nagle concluded, “America’s public ports – which create jobs for more than 13 million people and handle 99.4 percent of the tonnage of our nation’s overseas trade – together with their private-sector partners are investing over $9 billion annually in marine terminal infrastructure. We look forward to Congressional passage and President Obama signing this legislation, which will make important policy reforms and authorize badly needed maintenance and improvements to waterside connections with seaports.”