The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted unanimously this afternoon to approve the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA). The bill includes provisions to speed up Army Corps of Engineers projects and boost harbor maintenance funding. ASA President Danny Murphy released welcomed the vote, saying, “Today’s unanimous vote by the House T&I Committee to pass the WRRDA bill is a very positive sign, and we call on the full House to take up and pass the WRRDA without delay.”
“Soybeans are the nation’s largest agricultural export, and approximately half of all soybeans grown domestically are sent overseas,” Murphy added. “We contribute the largest share of the nation’s burgeoning farm exports, as well as the agricultural trade surplus. Soybean farmers rely on a reliable network of waterways, locks, dams and ports to move our products from farm to market. Many links in that chain have been neglected, and some are in danger of a catastrophic failure that would bring a stop to commerce. This bill and its companion in the Senate would begin to the process of addressing the backlog and improving our vital waterways infrastructure.”
While no significant amendments or revisions were enacted during the mark-up, some issues of interest to ASA were raised. Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Calif.), a co-chair of the House Ports Caucus, offered but withdrew two amendments relating to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF). One amendment would have expanded the types of work that could be funded through the Harbor Maintenance Tax, and another would have required Congress to fully spend the money that has accumulated in the HMTF for its intended purposes. The underlying bill does increase the amount of HMTF dollars that are spent annually for harbor maintenance and dredging, but does not go as far as requiring all dollars be spent for those purposes.
The measure is expected to be considered by the full House in early October and ASA will communicate with states and members on any amendments and votes.