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August 3, 2020 1:00 PM, EDT

House Advances Water Infrastructure Policy Bill

Trucks at Port of Los AngelesTrucks at the Port of Los Angeles.

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A water infrastructure policy bill that found bipartisan backing was easily advanced by the U.S. House of Representatives on July 29.

The Water Resources Development Act of 2020 (WRDA 2020) would authorize construction projects at more than two dozen Army Corps of Engineers sites, as well as release $10 billion in unspent harbor maintenance funding.

“It’s a great day for communities across the country when Congress works together to pass legislation with direct and immediate impacts to improve local ports, harbors and waterways,” said Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “Additionally, it’s always a good thing when Congress can prove it is still possible to come together and create meaningful legislation on a bipartisan basis.”

Peter DeFazio

DeFazio

The committee approved the bill July 15.

“WRDA 2020 authorizes critical corps projects,” he added, “which will strengthen our coastal communities, help keep us competitive in the global economy, restore our coastal environment, and create and sustain thousands of good-paying American jobs.

“This bill also transforms the corps’ planning process to ensure that future water resources development projects are more resilient, fully evaluate ecological and societal benefits, and are accessible to all communities, including rural and economically disadvantaged communities whose needs are often overlooked.”

Ranking Republican Sam Graves of Missouri said, “This bill is vital for advancing flood risk-reduction projects, helping rural communities to better address their flood control needs, and empowering communities in building more resilient infrastructure after disasters.

“In addition, WRDA provides navigation improvements for America’s ports and inland waterways system that will help grow the economy and create jobs.”

Water Resources Development Act of 2020 by Transport Topics on Scribd

The leadership of the water policy panel, Reps. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), and Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) also were among lawmakers who praised the measure’s passage.

Specifically, the bill would seek to enhance resources for the construction of inland waterways, prioritizing projects identified by users. It would direct the transportation secretary to equitably allocate harbor expenditures. It also would authorize harbor-related funding for key maintenance needs. Also, the measure would aim to promote severe-weather resilience at ports and harbors.

According to background provided by the bill’s sponsors, “[The legislation is] critical to the nation’s ports, inland waterways, locks, dams, flood protection, ecosystem restoration and other water resources infrastructure.”

On the other side of Capitol Hill, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has advanced legislation that would authorize $17 billion for the deepening of ports, and provisions pertaining to inland waterways and floodwaters. It also would authorize studies and certain corps reports, and adjust the cost-share for the Inland Waterways Trust Fund for construction costs.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)

Barrasso

“The House just passed a bipartisan water infrastructure bill,” EPW Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said July 29. “The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has unanimously reported legislation to improve our dams, ports, flood-prevention infrastructure and reservoirs. America’s Water Infrastructure Act will help create good jobs and get our economy back on track. I look forward to working with the House on legislation we can send to the president’s desk to upgrade our water infrastructure and help the American people.”

Various stakeholders applauded the House measure’s passage. Association of Equipment Manufacturers President Dennis Slater said, “Our nation’s harbors and inland waterways are vital to the success of the equipment manufacturing industry, the agriculture sector and all sectors of the U.S. economy.”

BlueGreen Alliance Executive Director Jason Walsh said, “We applaud passage of the House’s reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act and urge them to work with the Senate to pass a final bill that includes important measures such as the reauthorization of the Clean Water State Revolving Loan fund, Safe Drinking Water Act programs, and a permanent Buy America provision to ensure the investments we make create good-paying jobs here in the United States.”

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