May 23rd, 2014

May 23, 2014

This week the partisan gridlock paused for a moment when the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 was debated on the House floor. The WRRDA Conference Report passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support, with a final vote of 412-4. This little known bill dealing with critical national issues passed out of the House proving that Congress can get the job done.

The Water Resources Reform and Development Act will not only improve our nation’s economic competitiveness but also ensure that our maritime transportation stays relevant. Reaching an agreement between both chambers of Congress is vitally important to our nation’s economy and our global economic competitiveness for years to come.

Although WRRDA may seem policy heavy, its goals are simple. WRRDA is the vehicle that provides reforms and funding decisions for our nation’s maritime transportations systems. This includes 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.

WRRDA was traditionally passed every two years, but an updated version of this critical legislation has not 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, the President needs to join the House and Senate in support of this legislation. By sending this bipartisan bill to the President, common sense laws will be enacted to help to create jobs and improve our maritime infrastructure.

Our nation’s ports and vast inland waterway system provides American farmers and manufacturers with a unique competitive advantage. WRRDA is a real jobs bill – not only temporary construction jobs, but also permanent careers generated by increased efficiencies for our businesses that rely on properly maintained ports and inland waterways. 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.

It was important to me that we streamline the approval process for projects and work with the Army Corps of Engineers to ensure timely studies and approvals are conducted. Typically, it would take ten to fifteen years to complete the studies necessary prior to beginning construction. WRRDA will reduce that time to three years so that projects are able to begin as they are needed and create jobs. By setting hard deadlines on the time and cost of these studies we are able to consolidate and eliminate duplicative studies and streamline environmental reviews.

This WRRDA bill is different from any other bill passed by Congress. WRRDA is without earmarks and streamlines the process for the U.S Army Corps of Engineers. This bill was written without compromising out key principles: maintaining fiscal responsibility, streamlining studies, and reviews of projects, no earmarks and maintaining Congressional authority in our nation’s infrastructure projects.  I am proud of the work that was done to move this bill through the House and into Conference Committee and I look forward to seeing the positive changes this bill will initiate in our maritime transportation systems.