Congress Gets It Done with WRRDA

By Michael J. Toohey, President and CEO, Waterways Council, Inc.
Wednesday, July 02, 2014
Michael J. Toohey, President and CEO, Waterways Council, Inc.

On May 22, the Water Resources Reform Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014, containing major recommendations of the Capital Development Plan (CDP), was passed by a vote 91-7 in the Senate.  As MarineNews was going to press, President Obama finally signed the bill into law.  The conference agreement had passed the House on May 20 by an overwhelming 412-4 vote. 
The bill contains four key elements of the Capital Development Plan that were included in the House WAVE 4 (H.R. 1149) and Senate RIVER Act (S. 407) bills, both strongly supported by WCI:

  • Olmsted Federalization: permanent cost-sharing for the remaining cost of the Olmsted project will be 85% General Fund, 15% Inland Waterways Trust Fund, freeing up approximately $105 million per year for funding other Trust Fund priority projects with Olmsted funded at $150 million per year.
  • Definition of Major Rehabilitation Project Eligible for Inland Waterways Trust Fund: increased from current law level of $14 million to $20 million and adjusted annually for inflation.
  • Prioritization of Projects: based upon risk of failure and economic benefit to the Nation.
  • Project Delivery Process Reforms: based upon CDP-recommended reforms to better achieve on-time and on-budget performance.


The bill also increases annual target appropriations levels for spending of funds from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), with full use of HMTF funds by 2025. Implementation of many provisions in WRRDA will not happen immediately, as the Corps and the Secretary of the Army first must develop and provide guidance with respect to the provisions before they can be implemented.
Of WRRDA’s passage, WCI Chairman Matt Woodruff said, “The nation’s towboat operators, shippers, and labor, port, conservation and agriculture stakeholder members of WCI applauded today’s passage of WRRDA. This bill – and, we hope, law – will create American jobs, increase U.S. exports, keep our nation competitive in world markets, and enhance the reliability of the nation’s waterways transportation mode and critical supply chain link. Today, Congress got it done and voted to keep America moving!” 
There are many champions whose leadership led to a strong WRRDA outcome. Chief among them are Senate Environment & Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer and Ranking Member David Vitter, and House T&I Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, Vice Chairman Jimmy Duncan, and Ranking Member Nick Rahall; House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs and Ranking Member Tim Bishop;  Rep. Ed Whitfield and Rep. Daniel Lipinski and the 31 co-sponsors of WAVE 4: Waterways are Vital for the Economy, Energy, Efficiency, and Environment Act (H.R. 1149); and Senators Bob Casey, Lamar Alexander, Mary Landrieu, Amy Klobuchar, Tom Harkin, and Al Franken for authoring The RIVER Act: Reinvesting in Vital Economic Rivers and Waterways Act (S. 407).
Last January, at the State of the Union address, President Obama said, “We’ll need Congress to protect more than three million jobs by finishing transportation and waterways bills this summer.”  
On WRRDA, Congress got it done and got it done right.



(As published in the July 2014 edition of Marine News - http://magazines.marinelink.com/Magazines/MaritimeNews)
 


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