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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.942.4269