U.S. Senate Passes Water Resources Development Act
The United Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016, a measure which has important implications for U.S. ports and shippers.
The bill would expedite funding for port dredging activities, updates the cost-sharing formula for channel deepening projects, and extend authorization to provide funds to Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund donors and energy transfer ports. The bill also includes revisions to streamline and expedite existing projects, authorizes eight new navigation developments for freight movement, and provides assistance to help alleviate the lead-poisoned water system of Flint, Michigan.
The Senate passed the bill 95-3 with bipartisan support.
The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) lauded leaders who shepherded the bill through the Senate.
“Americans needs this crucial legislation to pass in order to fortify our freight transportation infrastructure,” stated AAPA President and CEO Kurt Nagle.
Nagle noted that Congress passed the last water resources reauthorization bill in 2014 after a seven-year hiatus. Passing it again this year would put it back, as intended, on an every-two-year cycle, which hasn’t happened since 2000.
“More than a quarter of America’s economy is based on the value of goods that transit in and out of our ports,” said Nagle. “In order to keep our economic recovery progressing, we must ensure these goods can move efficiently, without avoidable and costly delays caused by inadequate or poorly maintained infrastructure. Increased investments are needed to better maintain and improve the transportation infrastructure on our three coasts and the Great Lakes, linking America to the global marketplace.”
The legislative development also moved the 52-foot Charleston Harbor Deepening Project closer to fruition, noted port leaders.
“WRDA is critical legislation for port and port-related infrastructure modernization projects across the country,” said Jim Newsome, SCPA president and CEO. “We are extremely pleased that the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project will now move forward to the House for final authorization. Congressional approval will allow project construction to begin, ensuring the port remains on track to deliver all of the capabilities needed of a modern harbor by the end of the decade.”
Efforts to deepen the Charleston Harbor began in 2012. The project received its Record of Decision by the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) in January and has since awaited authorization through WRDA.
Labor leaders were also enthused by the bill’s passage. “Once again, Senators Boxer and Inhofe have proven that bipartisanship in Washington is not dead,” said Edward Wytkind, head of the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO. “TTD applauds their leadership on WRDA, which will authorize new Army Corps projects, keep American ports and harbors competitive, create good jobs and provide emergency aid for the community of Flint, Michigan, which is suffering from a drinking water crisis. For our nation’s seaports and the men and women who depend on them for good jobs, this legislation could not come at a better time.”
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