The U.S. House of Representatives approved the conference report on water resources legislation by a vote of 412 to 4. Six months of intense negotiations between House and Senate conferees produced a bipartisan bill aimed at reforming and streamlining an outdated bureaucracy, increasing flexibility for public-private investment and eliminating earmarks. The Senate may vote on the conference report by the end of this week.
National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA) President and CEO Mike Johnson said, “Senate Environment & Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and all the conferees on the WRRDA legislation should be proud of this important achievement. The overwhelmingly bipartisan margins by which this legislation was passed in each chamber prove once again that nothing can bring the two parties together quite like the need to invest in and strengthen America’s infrastructure. The nation’s ports, inland waterways, channels, locks and dams are a crucial part of our vast, interconnected transportation network that keeps our economy moving. We look forward to the return of a biannual process for approving future WRRDA bills so that we can better adapt and plan for our vital water infrastructure needs.”
The Water Resources Reform and Development Act, the first such measure to be passed since 2007, deauthorizes $18 billion in old, inactive projects and sunsets new authorizations to prevent future project backlogs. WRRDA contains no earmarks, but does establish a new process for reviewing and prioritizing water resource development activities with strong congressional oversight. The bill sets a three-year deadline and a $3 million cap on all Army Corps of Engineers feasibility studies, and requires concurrent rather than sequential reviews on the studies. The overall goal of these changes is to reduce the review process from the current average of 15 years down to just three.
“I commend the House of Representatives on approving the conference report for the Water Resources Reform and Development Act,” said Paul I. Detwiler III, NSSGA chairman and New Enterprise Stone & Lime Co., Inc.’s president and CEO. “It is heartening to see Congress step up to the plate when it comes to finding solutions to the crisis facing the country’s water and surface transportation network. Monumental steps, including increased investment, must be taken immediately to repair and revive our aging infrastructure if we intend to remain competitive and prosperous in a global marketplace. The WRRDA bill is an important initial step toward that goal.”
NSSGA sent a letter to members of the House urging support for the Water Resources Reform and Development Act. In it, NSSGA writes that, “Fully funding important water infrastructure projects will return dividends to the American people through an increasingly efficient water transportation network, better environmental protection and increased recreational opportunities.”