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November 08
​Senate Appoints WRDA Conferees

After a six year dry spell, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) has been passed by both chambers of Congress. The House and Senate bills now head to a conference committee, which will aim to iron out the differences between the measures. 

Historically, WRDA has been a popular bi-annual bill that authorizes local U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) projects that deal with water resources, environmental, structural and navigation issues, flood protection and hydrology studies. The yearly appropriations process determines the funding levels for WRDA projects. Last enacted in 2007, WRDA has faced an uphill battle in the past several years, due to the Congressional earmark ban. 

In May, the Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 (WRDA), S. 601 by a vote of 83-14. S. 601 would authorize $12.5 billion in funding and would carefully work around the earmark ban by granting the Corps authority over what projects should move forward. This aspect of S. 601 has caused controversy in the House, where members are concerned about giving the Corps too much decision-making authority over projects.

​On October 23, the House passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) by a vote of 417-3. WRRDA (H.R. 3080) would contain no earmarks and would establish a process for project review with Congressional review, rather than leaving the decision-making to the Corps. The House bill deauthorizes $12 billion of inactive projects (no 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 and expands the use of Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.

The bills now move to a conference committee, where conferees will attempt to work out their differences. Both chambers are committed to finishing a WRDA bill by the end of the year. The Senate has appointed eight conferees – five Democrats and three Republicans – led by Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who will serve as chairwoman of the conference committee. Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Thomas Carper (D-Del.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), EPW ranking member David Vitter (R-LA), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) were also appointed as conferees.

The House has not yet named its conferees. The chamber is on recess until November 12 and is expected to name conferees at that time. 

Contact: Julie Ufner at jufner@naco.org or 202.942.4269

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