Senate works through Water Resources bill

Last week, the Senate began working through S. 601, the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 (WRDA). A final vote is expected later this week.

WRDA, which was unanimously approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in late March, is critical to our nation’s manufacturers as it ensures continued investment in our inland and coastal waterways as well as improving and updating the nation’s water infrastructure. It also includes project acceleration provisions that ensure important water infrastructure projects are processed in an efficient manner.

According to the National Association of Manufacturers, of which the BCA is the exclusive Alabama affiliate, “the bipartisan legislation includes measures to improve the environmental review process and expedite delivery of water resource projects sponsored by the Army Corps of Engineers….Our nation’s navigable rivers help keep transportation costs competitive and are vital for manufacturers’ supply chains to move products and commodities such as coal, petroleum, chemicals, steel, fertilizer and grain among others valued at approximately $78 billion. Unfortunately, many aging locks along our inland waterway system are operating beyond their intended design life, creating inefficiency and uncertainty for shippers and barge operators….S. 601 addresses the long-standing issue of underinvestment in our nation’s ports and harbors by authorizing increased funding for harbor maintenance dredging from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. Regular maintenance dredging is essential to keeping our nation’s ports open for business. Over 90 percent of the nation’s top 50 ports in foreign waterborne commerce require maintenance dredging.”

According to U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La, the top Republican on the EPW Committee, the legislation is estimated to create up to 500,000 new jobs.

There are more than 100 amendments to the WRDA bill, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has indicated he wants the Senate to finish the bill this week. This afternoon, the Senate is working on an agreement regarding the amendments. If an agreement is reached, votes on the amendments could begin as early as this evening.

-Nancy Hewston