July 24th, 2014
This column was previously published in the Washington Times Speical Transportation and Infrastructure Issue.
A Water Resources bill was intended to be passed by Congress every two years, but prior to this version it hadn’t made it to the President's desk since 2007. With nearly one third of our country’s GDP derived from international trade and 99 percent of that trade passing through our nation’s ports, America could not afford additional delays. The passage of WRRDA is important to our country’s economic success and I am proud to say that the President and Congress were able to agree on this common sense bill.
The Water Resources Reform and Development Act is different, it includes reforms and streamlines the project approval process and it grants non-federal interest the ability to spend their own money. WRRDA is also completely earmark free and offsets new projects by eliminating old projects that are no longer needed.
WRRDA ensures that our maritime transportation stays relevant. This piece of legislation provides reforms and funding decisions for our nation’s infrastructure, including construction of locks and dams on our inland waterways, maintenance dredging of our nation’s ports and harbors, planning and construction of flood control projects to protect our communities, and ecosystem restoration to improve the environment and wildlife habitat. This infrastructure is crucial to the way our country moves goods and trades globally.
There are 30 million jobs related to international trade and $200 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue is generated by our ports every year. WRRDA will ensure that America maintains and expands upon our competitive advantage, not just today but in the years to come. This WRRDA is unlike any previous bill passed by Congress; the reforms we have made are unprecedented and will provide a layout for future water infrastructure bills to come.
Our nation’s ports and vast inland waterways systems provides American farmers and manufacturers with a unique competitive advantage. Every state relies on at least 15 seaports to handle its imports and exports. This infrastructure is crucial to the way our country moves goods and trades globally. There are 30 million jobs related to international trade, and $200 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue is generated by our ports every year. WRRDA is a real jobs bill that creates both temporary construction jobs and permanent careers for Americans across the country.
No one wants to waste time jumping through hoops and going through a lengthy approval process to see a project get on its feet. WRRDA streamlines the approval process for projects and works with the Army Corps of Engineers to ensure timely studies and approvals are conducted. It would usually take ten to fifteen years to complete the studies necessary prior to beginning construction. WRRDA will reduce the time to three years to jump start projects and create jobs. By setting firm deadlines on the time and the cost of these studies, we are able to consolidate and eliminate duplicative studies along with streamlining environmental reviews.
All of these responsible reforms in WRRDA make this almost too good to be true. But ‘too good to be true’ was signed into law in June and can remain a blueprint for future water bills. WRRDA was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the House and Senate and enthusiastically signed into law by the President. This bill was written without compromising our key principles: maintaining fiscal responsibility, streamlining studies and reviews of projects, removing all earmarks and maintaining Congress’ role in determining our Nation’s infrastructure projects. The tides have changed and the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 sends a message to Americans that good policy exists and will generate good results.