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March 17, 2022 3:10 PM, EDT

House Lawmakers Pitch Water Infrastructure Projects

Padre DamPadre Dam Municipal Water District via YouTube

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Congressional policymakers promoted efforts to boost funding for ports and commercial corridors as a transportation panel pursues an update of the Water Resources Development Act.

Citing supply chain bottlenecks and the rising price of fuel amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, dozens of members of the U.S. House of Representatives pressed transportation policy leaders to revive water projects deemed essential for addressing commerce and climate change.

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s leadership is seeking lawmakers’ input to determine the amount of resources necessary for ports and waterways, especially under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers.

In addressing the panel on March 16, for instance, Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) emphasized a need for prioritizing projects related to dredging. As he put it, “Undredged ports and harbors limit economic activity and force operators to forgo important upgrades to their facilities.”

Rep. Robert Wittman (R-Va.) focused the panel’s attention on coastal improvement projects meant to facilitate access to ports.

“Water infrastructure is vital to moving goods throughout the country, from products we all use in our everyday lives, to crops and goods we produce domestically and send abroad,” Wittman said. “The Army Corps of Engineers is critical to our commonwealth, from the Norfolk Harbor Channel Widening and Deepening Project to the public waterways restorations projects across Virginia.”

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) pressed for funding for the Padre Dam Municipal Water District. “This collaborative program is helping to drought-proof San Diego County by providing a new source for drinking water and eliminate 15 million gallons per day of treated wastewater discharge,” Issa explained.

WRDA by Transport Topics

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) requested authorization for a study on flood control in an area of New Jersey that includes the cities of Lodi, Saddle Brook, Rochelle Park and Garfield. Other lawmakers, such as Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Appropriations Committee chairwoman, emphasized flood control, harbor maintenance and risk management projects in their states.

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s leadership indicated lawmakers’ input would help craft the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), to enhance access at ports and waterways. Amid ongoing international supply chain woes, Congress has placed greater emphasis on commercial transportation improvement projects. Upgrading and modernizing such projects would ideally facilitate the flow of freight.

David Rouzer

Rouzer

“As we all know, WRDA bills provide the opportunity for communities and local sponsors to partner with the [Army Corps of Engineers] on critical navigation, flood protection and ecosystem restoration projects,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), transportation committee chairman. “Earlier this year, we had the opportunity to hear both from the Biden administration and [Army Corps of Engineers] stakeholders and nonfederal partners, including representatives of tribal governments, on their priorities for the forthcoming WRDA bill.”

Senior Republicans, such as Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee ranking member David Rouzer (R-N.C.), expressed optimism about the law’s potential for improving commercial corridors.

“WRDA is one of the best examples of Congress working the way it should. Since 2014, Congress has passed a WRDA bill every two years,” Rouzer noted. “In addition to being on a dependable schedule, these talks have been bipartisan, and it has made a big difference for all stakeholders and our water infrastructure.”

The House panel is expected to craft the measure in the spring. Senate counterparts also have commenced consideration of their water policy funding bill.

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