September 29, 2016 | National Grain and Feed Association

NGFA Commends House for Approving Waterways Bill

Will provide more frequent and thorough oversight of the U.S. inland waterways system and U.S. harbors

The National Grain and Feed Association commended the House of Representatives today for passing by a 399-25 vote the $5 billion 2016 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), (HR 5303), which will provide more frequent and thorough oversight of the U.S. inland waterways system and U.S. harbors.

The Senate passed its $10.6 billion WRDA bill on Sept. 15. Importantly, consistent with the NGFA's policy position, neither WRDA bill authorizes tolling or lockage fees along the inland waterways system.

Congress in 2014 enacted a sweeping and significant WRDA bill. The two previous bills were separated by seven years.  But Congress now is committed to completing a bill every two years, which NGFA hailed as a significant development. Both the House and Senate versions of WRDA 2016 continue the welcomed reforms of the 2014 legislation, while also authorizing U.S. Army Corps of Engineers civil works projects.

A continued focus on U.S. waterways infrastructure is necessary to compete in a global marketplace, the NGFA noted. This year, completion of the project to expand the Panama Canal has enabled transit by much larger vessels.

"To maintain our competitive advantage against other countries, we must relentlessly make the case for continued investment in our water resources infrastructure," said NGFA Director of Legislative Affairs and Public Policy Bobby Frederick. "We appreciate the commitment from lawmakers to invest the resources and devote the policy attention these issues deserve through regular oversight and the biannual WRDA process. An efficient waterborne transportation system represents a critical difference-maker when it comes to growing the American economy, and is vitally important to U.S. agricultural exports and the positive contribution they make to the U.S. balance of trade."

The House's WRDA bill authorizes 31 "Chief's Reports," or final recommendations from the Army Corps of Engineers to Congress on infrastructure project priorities. The House bill also continues to allow full spending of annual receipts of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) to be utilized by 2025, and also makes permanent a 10 percent set aside of trust fund resources for small ports.

The House's WRDA bill also authorizes $170 million to help Flint, Mich., deal with a crisis of lead contamination in its drinking water, while the Senate bill provided $220 million in actual funding to Flint.

The Senate's bill authorizes 30 new water projects and includes $4.9 billion for drinking water infrastructure. The bill also extends the 10 percent set-aside for emerging harbors and ports and requires an annual increase in the funding authorized to be spent from the HMTF.

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