Thursday, September 12, 2013

House Bipartisan Water Resources Act; H.R.3080

Sep 11: Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introduced what they called "unprecedented bipartisan water resources reform legislation that cuts federal red tape and bureaucracy, streamlines the infrastructure project delivery process, promotes fiscal responsibility, and strengthens our water transportation networks to promote America's competitiveness, prosperity, and economic growth."

    H.R.3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 (WRRDA), was introduced in the House by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), Committee Ranking Member Nick Rahall, II (D-WV), Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs (R-OH), and Subcommittee Ranking Member Tim Bishop (D-NY).

    Through WRRDA, Congress authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out its missions to develop, maintain, and support the Nation's vital port and waterways infrastructure needs, and support effective and targeted 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. 

    Chairman Shuster said, "WRRDA 2013 is the most policy and reform focused legislation of its kind in the last two decades. 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." Ranking Member Rahall said, "This bill is about jobs. It boosts our ports, strengthens our maritime economy, and allows commodities to move more efficiently along our inland waterways, saving time and money.  When we invest in these corridors of commerce we are investing in a more competitive nation and enabling our water transportation network to support increased economic opportunity." The Members highlighted the following features of the bill:

  • Sets hard deadlines on the time and cost of studies
  • Consolidates or eliminates duplicative or unnecessary studies and requires concurrent reviews 
  • Streamlines environmental reviews
  • Deauthorizes $12 billion of old, inactive projects that were authorized prior to WRDA 2007
  • Fully offsets new authorizations with deauthorizations
  • Sunsets new authorizations to prevent future project backlogs
  • Reduces the inventory of properties that are not needed for the missions of the Corps
  • No earmarks
  • Establishes a new, transparent process for future bills to review and prioritize water resources development activities with strong Congressional oversight 
  • Maximizes the ability of non-federal interests to contribute their own funds to move authorized studies and projects forward
  • Expands the ability of non-federal interests to contribute funds to expedite the evaluation and processing of permits
  • Establishes a Water Infrastructure Public Private Partnership Program
  • Authorizes needed investments in America's ports
  • Supports underserved, emerging ports
  • Reforms and preserves the Inland Waterways Trust Fund
  • Authorizes priority water resources infrastructure improvements recommended by the Chief of the Army Corps of Engineers to improve navigation and commerce and address flood risk management, hurricane and storm damage risk reduction, and environmental restoration needs

    Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, issued a statement after the House leaders released H.R.3080 and said, "Earlier this year, the Senate overwhelmingly approved critical legislation to invest in the nation's aging water infrastructure. I am pleased that Republican and Democratic leaders on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee worked together to develop a bipartisan bill, and I urge the House to move quickly so that we can reconcile the House and Senate approaches and get a water resources development bill to the President's desk." On May 15, the Senate passed S. 601, the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 [See WIMS 5/15/13], with strong bipartisan support (83 to 14). S. 601 provides critical flood protection for communities across the country, maintains navigation routes and the flow of commerce, restores vital ecosystems, and sustains up to 500,000 new jobs.

    Access a joint release from the Members with additional comments and links to the bill text, background and a video of the press conference (click here). Access the statement from Sen. Boxer (click here). Access legislative details for H.R.3080 (click here). Access legislative details for S.601 (click here). [#Water]