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House OKs water resources bill

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House passes Water Resources Development Act, but doesn't include Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund measure

The House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2018 (H.R. 8) in a 408 to 2 vote.

The popular water infrastructure bill reauthorizes the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which includes federal navigation, flood-control, storm damage projects and feasibility studies across the United States. Once enacted into law, WRDA provisions must be funded through the annual appropriations process.

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NACo letter in support of H.R. 8

However, the bill did not include a provision on the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) that had been initially included.

The provision would have allowed the full use of HMTF for harbor maintenance purposes without the need of further congressional appropriations by FY 2029.

The HMTF provision was removed from the bill after the Congressional Budget Office reported it would increase annual deficits by more than $5 billion over 10-years following its 2029 enactment date.

The HMTF is a tax levied against importers and domestic shippers using ports and harbors in coastal and Great Lakes areas.

Even though the HMTF has a large surplus, only a portion of its total is appropriated by Congress every year for operations and maintenance in the nation’s harbors.

Additionally, the bill directs the National Academy of Sciences to consult with the Army Corps and other federal agencies to study the potential impacts of moving the Army Corps’ Civil Works division out from the Department of Defense and “to a new or existing agency or sub-agency of the federal government” to carry out authorized WRDA projects and studies.

The bipartisan bill was introduced by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Shuster, Ranking Member DeFazio, Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Garret Graves (R-La.), and Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.).

Across the capitol, the Senate has been working on its WRDA bill titled America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (S. 2800).

Like the House bill, the Senate version does not include HMTF. 

The Senate bill advanced out of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on May 22.

Senate leaders indicated that the chamber will likely bring up the bill within the next several weeks.

WRDA is historically passed every two years. However, in the past decade, it has only been enacted three times, in 2007, 2014 and 2016.WRDA currently has a backlog of nearly $100 billion worth of projects that have been authorized but have not received appropriations.

If passed by Congress, the current WRDA legislation would add to the list of projects awaiting congressional appropriations.  

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