The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Wednesday released full text of the Water Resources Reform & Development Act, legislation that aims to improve waterways infrastructure and impact shipping and transportation efficiency on inland waterways.
Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Penn., Committee Ranking Member Nick J. Rahall, II, D-W.V., Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio and Subcommittee Ranking Member Tim Bishop, D-N.Y. announced the bill during a press conference. It is scheduled for markup Sept. 19.
The bill authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to maintain waterways infrastructure needs and support flood protection and environmental restoration needs.
Historically, Congress has passed such legislation every two years to provide clear direction to the Administration and the Corps, but no bill has been signed into law since 2007. The Senate previously passed its version of the bill in May.
"WRRDA 2013 is the most policy and reform focused legislation of its kind in the last two decades," Shuster said. "The bill contains no earmarks and makes major programmatic reforms to increase transparency, accountability, and Congressional oversight of federal water resources development activities.
"Most importantly, WRRDA is about jobs and improving America's competitiveness. A strong, effective water transportation network is essential to keeping pace with other nations that are improving their own infrastructure networks and gaining ground in an increasingly competitive global marketplace."
The draft language of the bill streamlines environmental reviews, establishes hard deadlines and cost caps on project studies, allows non-federal interests to contribute to projects and re-allocates funds from long-standing projects to use the money more efficiently.
The House Republican Leadership indicated its support the bill, issuing a memo to members last week touting that the proposal "cuts federal red tape and bureaucracy, streamlines the project delivery process, improves competitiveness, strengthens water resources infrastructure, and promotes fiscal responsibility," according to the American Soybean Association.
ASA President Danny Murphy said his organization supports the enactment of waterways legislation because shipping is a significant part of soybean marketing.
"U.S. soybean farmers rely on a healthy waterways infrastructure to move their soybeans to market," Murphy explained in a statement. "The U.S. exports more than half of the soybeans grown in this country and having reliable and efficient waterways and ports is essential to maintaining our competitiveness in global markets. We are encouraged by many parts of the WRRDA bill and will work to see it passed."
To view a video about the bill, click here.