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September 19, 2018 9:30 AM, EDT

Senate’s Turn to Vote on Water Infrastructure Package

Ala Wai Canal The bill authorizes $327.3 million for Ala Wai Canal in Hawaii. (Shutterstock)

The U.S. Senate is expected to take up as early as this month House-passed legislation that would authorize projects designed to improve infrastructure at ports, harbors and waterways, as well as boost flood protection programs.

The Senate’s top lawmakers on water policy, Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and committee ranking member Tom Carper (D-Del.), praised the House’s unanimous backing of the water infrastructure legislation on Sept. 13.

Barrasso emphasized it now is the Senate’s turn to take up the bill.

John Barrasso and Tom Carper

Sen. John Barrasso (left) and Sen.Tom Carper. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

“It authorizes important projects and increases local involvement in the decision-making process. Simply put, this bill is good for the entire nation,” the EPW chairman said.

“That it was passed by voice vote in the House reflects the widespread support for this bill,” added Carper.

Republican leaders in the Senate have yet to schedule a vote on the legislation.

Specifically, the bill would aim to facilitate the movement of goods, and it would carry on with previous reforms of the Army Corps of Engineers designed to accelerate the process for moving projects forward at lower costs. The legislation would establish a pilot program for the Army Corps of Engineers to award dredging contracts across a geographical region instead of a project-by-project basis.

It also would direct the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the dredged material management plan process, as well as maximize the use of existing information, studies and innovative dredge material management practices.

Additionally, 12 water resources projects recommended by the Chief of Engineers are authorized in the bill. The projects are: Three Rivers Southeast Arkansas at $184.3 million, San Juan Harbor in Puerto Rico at $55.1 million, Galveston Harbor Channel extension project in Texas at $13.9 million, Seattle harbor navigation improvement project in Washington at $61.2 million, Lower San Joaquin River in California at $1 billion, Ala Wai Canal in Hawaii at $327.3 million, Mamaroneck-Sheldrake Rivers in New York at $82.2 million, St. Johns County in Florida at $55 million, St. Lucie County in Florida at $33.6 million, Sabine Pass to Galveston Bay in Texas at $3.3 billion, Espanola Valley, Rio Grande in New Mexico at $63.2 million, and Resacas near Brownsville, Texas, at $207.1 million.

“It invests in the ports, locks and dams, inland waterways, flood protection, and other infrastructure that makes America more competitive and protects our communities, while building upon reforms to the Army Corps of Engineers to continue improving project delivery,” said Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “I commend my House and Senate colleagues for working together to reach agreement, and I look forward to the Senate taking up this bill as soon as possible.”

“These critical water infrastructure projects will improve our nation’s ports, harbors and waterways, and create and sustain thousands of good-paying American jobs. I applaud my colleagues for their good bipartisan work,” committee ranking member Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) added.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Petroleum Institute and the American Association of Port Authorities are among those calling on Congress to advance the bill to the president’s desk.

“Seaport infrastructure investments are good for ports and good for the nation,” said AAPA president Kurt Nagle, adding that the bill “provides the foundation for investments in America’s 21st-century maritime infrastructure enabling the U.S. to continue to be globally competitive in foreign trade — a key to expanding U.S. jobs and growing our nation’s economy.”