According to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), was passed on a 412-4 vote by the House this Tuesday.
The final draft of legislation to authorize improvements to the nation’s water transportation system has been in negotiatons for months. An infrastructure bill, this $12 billion-plus bipartisan measure authorizes 34 water projects, ranging from flood protection in California and North Dakota to deepening the St. Johns River in Jacksonville and the Port of Savannah and widening a Texas-Louisiana waterway that services the oil industry.
It would be the first time Congress has updated the authorizing legislation known as WRDA (Water Resources Development Act), since 2007. Commodity groups, barge lines, and shippers have been working several years to get legislation passed that could help repair the nation’s aging locks and dams, as well as improving dredging in U.S. harbors, which will welcome larger ships when the expanded Panama Canal opens in 2015 or early 2016.
“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,” chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Representative Bill Shuster (R-PA) said in a press release.
The measure will gradually shift more of an import tax set up for harbor maintenance to actually pay for dredging. Currently, only half of the tax is used on harbors, with the rest going into other federal programs.
It also shifts more of the cost of completing the Olmsted Lock and Dam project on the Ohio River – which has been plagued by cost overruns – to the Federal Government. That will free up more funds to improve and maintain the rest of the inland waterway system managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
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