WRDA 2020: 'A Step in the Right Direction'

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

July 15, 2020

File photo: A tow exits the east lock of the Colorado River Lock system near Matagorda, Texas. (Credit Simon DeSoto, Colorado River lockmaster / courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

File photo: A tow exits the east lock of the Colorado River Lock system near Matagorda, Texas. (Credit Simon DeSoto, Colorado River lockmaster / courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure voted the Water Resources Development Act of 2020 (WRDA 2020) favorably out of Committee, Wednesday. The legislation, which provides authority for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to carry out water resources development projects and studies, as well as policy direction to the Corps for implementation of its Civil Works missions, now heads to the House Floor for a vote.

Maritime trade groups Waterways Council, Inc. (WCI) and the American Waterways Operators (AWO) applauded the House T&I bill (H.R. 7575), particularly Section 108 which changes the cost share for inland waterway infrastructure projects from the current 50%/50% split to a more favorable ratio of 65% federal and 35% Inland Waterways Trust Fund.

The House T&I Committee’s WRDA bill’s cost-share adjustment sunsets at the end of Fiscal Year 2027 with a provision that any project that begins construction within this timeframe will carry the 65%/35% cost-share all the way through to the end of its construction.

WCI noted the bill also authorizes the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, Brazos River Floodgates and Colorado River Locks.

“WCI is grateful to the House T&I Committee for continuing the biennial process of WRDA. This bill is a step in the right direction for inland waterways infrastructure by adjusting the cost-share to 65%/35% for seven years,” said WCI President/CEO Tracy Zea. “We look forward to working with the Committee as this bill proceeds to the House floor and then to Conference.”

AWO, which also praised the the new 65%/35% cost share, said the bill contains many favorable provisions that will enhance American waterways infrastructure and facilitate the flow of commercial navigation.

It said the bill will also halt interception and rearing complexes on the Missouri River pending additional research, increase the federal cost share for the Brandon Road Asian carp construction projects to 80% and amend Sec. 1111 of WRDA 2018 to expand a regional dredge pilot program and allow the Corps to send dredges to areas affected by high or low water events.

"We are grateful to have maritime champions like Chairman Peter DeFazio, Ranking Member Sam Graves, Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairwoman Janet Napolitano and Ranking Member Bruce Westerman and Committee Members leading on this essential legislation," said Jennifer Carpenter, AWO's President & CEO. "AWO is proud to back this bill, which will strengthen our waterways infrastructure system to the benefit of American shippers, the tugboat, towboat and barge industry and American maritime as a whole."

“I am pleased that today the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed a bipartisan WRDA bill by voice vote, which is now headed the House Floor for a vote,” said Chair DeFazio. “One of my top priorities in Congress has been protecting the small ports and harbors that are the lifeblood of Oregon’s coastal communities. By doubling funding for small harbors, WRDA 2020 makes sure that maintenance dredging and other projects like the Coos Bay North Jetty are well funded, ensuring the safety of our mariners and preserving the viability of our ports. Additionally, this bill takes serious action to protect and restore the habitat of endangered salmon and steelhead by directly investing in habitat restoration, protecting water in the Willamette Basin exclusively for conservation purposes, and finding ways to restore salmon access to pristine spawning territory above Cougar and Detroit Dams. I am thankful to Chair Napolitano and Ranking Members Graves and Westerman for their work to move forward this important legislation that will help unleash the full potential of our nation’s ports and harbors, protect our communities and environment, sustain U.S. jobs, and provide critical authorizations and improvements to Corps projects.”

Congress has successfully enacted three consecutive WRDAs in 2014, 2016 and 2018.

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