On September 19, the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I)
Committee passed its bipartisan Water Resources Reform and Development Act
(WRRDA), H.R. 3080, without opposition by voice vote. WRRDA is based on
the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). Historically, WRDA is a
biannual bill to authorize U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) projects (water resources, environmental,
structural, navigational, flood protection, hydrology, etc.) and contains
policy directives. WRDA was last enacted in 2007. Since then, it has
become embroiled in controversies due to its use of “earmarks” to fund
projects. NACo’s letter on the House bill can be viewed here.
At the beginning of the 113th Congress, Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.),
chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), and Bill
Shuster (R-Penn.), chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee, expressed their strong support and commitment to WRDA and pledged to
reauthorize this important piece of legislation. However, each chamber had
a different viewpoint on how to achieve this goal
In May, 2013, the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 (WRDA), S.
601, was approved in the Senate by an overwhelming vote of 83-14. Since
earmarks could not be used, the Senate chose to rest responsibility for
choosing projects with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The House, on the other hand, did not agree with the Senate approach,
feeling that it put too much control in the hands of the Corps, so House
legislators wrote their own bill. WRRDA contains no earmarks and
establishes a process for project review with Congressional review, rather than
leaving the decision-making up to the Corps (under the bill the Corps would
submit the proposed projects to Congress and Congress would approve). The House
bill deauthorizes $12 billion of inactive projects (any activity for the past
five years); allows non-federal partners to contribute funding to move studies,
projects and permits; preserves the Inland Waterways Trust Fund; expands the
use of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, among other things.
A major discussion in committee markup dealt with the bill’s
environmental streamlining provisions. These provisions give the Corps
strict timelines to move forward with water resource projects. In the
past, Corps projects have been mired in environmental reviews that can often
take 15 years or more. Under the streamlined process, House leaders
believe the new process will take an average of three years. The
Administration expressed concerns about similar provisions in the Senate’s WRDA
WRRDA is expected to move to the House floor for a vote in October.
Contact: Julie Ufner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.942.4269