House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leaders said Friday they will try to finalize and vote on a Water Resources Development Act renewal when Congress returns from a five-week vacation in September.
The plan to advance a bill has the support of Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, they said.
WRDA is a priority for the maritime and inland waterway industries because much of the money it authorizes to be spent goes towards making shipping channels accessible for commercial vessels.
The reauthorization bill determines how much of the $1.6 billion in annual Harbor Maintenance Tax receipts are allocated for the Army Corps of Engineers to maintain channels at their authorized depth and width. Pending legislation to be considered under the WRDA write-up would require the government to utilize the entire amount of annual fees for dredging.
The bill also is a vehicle to approve projects to deepen specific ports.
Committee members are also resolved to reform the Corps' process for conducting feasibility studies and environmental reviews of proposed deepening projects, which can string out for more than a dozen years in many cases.
Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., said the bill will increase transparency, accountability and congressional oversight of the review process and prioritize future projects. WRDA bills also cover other Corps responsibilities such as flood control and environmental restoration.
“We need fiscally responsible solutions that cut red tape and improve our essential infrastructure,” Cantor, R-Va., said in a statement. “The bill by Chairman Shuster and (Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment) Chairman (Bob) Gibbs offers a way to cut through the federal government’s excessive bureaucracy and help America become more competitive.”
Congress has not passed a WRDA bill since 2007. The Senate passed its version of the bill in the spring.
Read "Dredging up dollars
," (May 2013 issue, p. 52) for more background on the issues and politics involved with passage of a WRDA bill. - Eric Kulisch