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May 9, 2022 12:53 PM, EDT

Senate Panel Advances Water Infrastructure Bill

PortContainerships at the Port of Tacoma. (Ted S. Warren/Associated Press)

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Legislation designed to enhance funding for the country’s commercial waterways was easily approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this month.

Senate transportation policymakers unanimously backed the Water Resources Development Act of 2022, or WRDA, on May 4.

The bill would specifically approve dozens of new U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction projects and feasibility studies.

The measure is meant as a response to ongoing supply chain bottlenecks, which are credited with slowing down certain freight movement at commercial ports. Additionally, the bill would approve programs on flooding, navigation and environmental reviews under the purview of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“The importance of investing in and revitalizing our water infrastructure cannot be understated. From the waterways that deliver goods to the Port of Wilmington to the beaches protecting our coastal communities, our water resources are core to our way of life,” Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) said on May 4. “This year’s reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act would authorize the modification of existing and construction of new, critical Army Corps projects in Delaware and throughout the country: Projects that will significantly improve quality of life, create good-paying jobs and protect communities against the threats of climate change.”

“True to the corps’ tradition, this bill moves forward projects that will benefit both local communities and the entire country,” added Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the committee’s ranking member. “For example, we are authorizing a significant project for coastal storm risk management on the coast of Texas that will ensure critical port assets can continue to serve our country’s shipping and supply chain needs moving forward.”

She explained: “This project will help mitigate the worst impacts of hurricanes for local communities, and it will also provide a vital corridor for our nation’s energy industry.”

On the House side, transportation policy leaders have indicated they are finalizing their version of the water infrastructure package. The legislation would aim to address concerns associated with commerce as well as climate change.

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s leadership noted that lawmakers’ input would be used to craft the bill. They are seeking to enhance access at ports and waterways by upgrading and modernizing such projects.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.)

DeFazio

“WRDA bills provide the opportunity for communities and local sponsors to partner with the corps 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 corps’ stakeholders and nonfederal partners, including representatives of Tribal governments, on their priorities for the forthcoming WRDA bill.”

“We are currently developing our fifth consecutive, bipartisan, WRDA bill,” affirmed Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the water policy subcommittee. “This is clear evidence that WRDA has become a product of its own success. Our constituents demand and now expect that we move forward in developing this legislation every Congress. This consistency and predictability is also essential to the corps itself, and stakeholders across the country.”

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