Senate Panel Releases Drafts of Water Infrastructure Bills
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on April 21 released draft versions of two water infrastructure bills that together would authorize nearly $20 billion in new federal funding for projects, including those to help maintain navigability of inland waterways and deepen nationally significant ports. The committee announced it would hold a hearing on the measures May 5.
Senate EPW has a tradition of working in a bipartisan manner on the biannual Water Resources Development Act. Surprising in this deeply divided partisan era in Washington, the 2018 WRDA bill passed the Senate 99-1.
This year’s America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 continues the bipartisan tradition and would authorize roughly $17 billion in new funding for inland waterway Improvements and the full $1.8 billion collected by the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for dredging and ensuring that our ports and harbors are fully operational. The bill also sets a two-year goal for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete feasibility studies for potential ports and waterways projects, and adjust the cost-share for the Inland Waterways Trust Fund from the current 50/50 share (general revenue/Inland Waterway Trust Fund) to a 65/35 share for project construction costs and major rehabilitation of locks and dams.
Taking more from general revenue would significantly hasten progress on these important projects. ILTA supports a 75/25 share and will continue working with a broad industry coalition to obtain that goal. The coalition includes not only the Waterways Council Inc. and the American Association of Port Authorities, but also other major Washington trade associations, including the American Petroleum Institute, the American Chemistry Council, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Committee Chairman Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), the panel’s ranking member, agreed that the committee should would work quickly to pass legislation that will improve the nation’s ports, dams, flood-prevention infrastructure, reservoirs and drinking water systems.
Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and his committee have been working on WRDA legislation for several months and hope to introduce a House version in early June.