At the recent National Governors Association meeting, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) spoke with the nation's governors about strengthening the country’s transportation infrastructure.
Shuster highlighted his committee’s plan to consider a bill to reauthorize the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) next month. He describes the legislation as an unprecedented effort to reform water resources policy in a way that is designed to cut federal red tape and bureaucracy, streamline the project delivery process, promote fiscal responsibility, and strengthen water transportation networks to promote competitiveness, prosperity, and economic growth.
Shuster took the opportunity presented by the National Governors Association Summer Meeting in Milwaukee to outline his plans to take up bipartisan WRRDA legislation in September in preparation for expected action by the full House of Representatives in October.
“WRRDA will be the most policy and reform-focused legislation of its kind in the last two decades,” Shuster said. Traditionally, water resources legislation focuses on developing, maintaining, and supporting our nation’s vital port and waterway infrastructure needs, as well as supporting effective and targeted flood protection and environmental restoration needs. Congress used to consider such bills to authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers studies and construction activities every two years, but has not approved one since 2007.
Shuster went on to say, “The ports, channels, locks and dams, and other infrastructure that support our maritime and waterways transportation system and provide flood protection for our homes and businesses are vitally important to a healthy national economy and job growth. Ensuring a sound infrastructure network is a shared responsibility, with a strong federal role recognized by our Founding Fathers, as well as a need for leadership at the state level. However, our water transportation system is quickly becoming more obsolete every day. We need fiscally responsible reforms for how our Nation maintains and improves this infrastructure, and we need to empower states with the flexibility they need to move forward with projects when federal bureaucratic hurdles stand in the way of progress.”
“While it once took the Corps of Engineers three to five years to complete a study, it has now become the norm for this process to take 10 to 15 years. The unwieldy review process remains tied up in red tape, costing us time and money and preventing action. We need to change the way the Corps of Engineers does business, and WRRDA will do that,” he added.
Shuster also said, “This legislation will make major reforms to increase transparency, accountability, and Congressional oversight in reviewing and prioritizing future water resources development activities. WRRDA will contain no earmarks, and will not cede Constitutional Congressional authority to the Executive branch that would simply allow the Corps and the Administration to move ahead without the necessary checks and balances.”
The Pennsylvania Republican added, “Current law limits the ability of states and other non-federal interests to spend their own money to move forward with authorized federal studies and projects. These statutory roadblocks hold back the development of our water resources infrastructure for no good reason. WRRDA will break down these barriers, unlocking the opportunity for increased non-federal investment and ensuring that state, local, and private sector resources are no longer forced to sit on the sidelines while America’s competitiveness slips away.”
“While we have to recognize the economic importance of our water resources infrastructure, our financial resources are limited. That’s why this bill will provide for greater fiscal responsibility as all levels of government and the private sector work together to strengthen America’s ability to remain globally competitive,” he concluded.