Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Waterways infrastructure bill ready for Obama’s signature
Washington—Just before wrapping up the second session of the 114th Congress, the House and Senate approved the Farm Bureau-supported Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act (S.612). The measure includes the Water Resources Development Act of 2016, which authorizes investment in America’s ports, channels, locks, dams and other infrastructure that supports the maritime and waterways transportation system and provides flood protection for communities.
“Making sure our inland waterways are healthy, along with the ability to deepen our ports, is essential to keeping U.S. farmers and ranchers competitive in international markets.
Andrew Walmsley, American Farm Bureau Federation transportation specialist
Included in the legislation is a 75 percent federal share on harbor-deepening projects up to 50 feet. The federal share previously dropped to 50 percent when new construction went deeper than 45 feet. Also included is a new provision ensuring that each year, the revenues that go to harbor maintenance will be at least 103 percent of the previous year’s amount.
The WRDA title of the bill also authorizes projects included in the Army Corps of Engineers Chief’s Reports received since the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014.
Another of the bill’s three titles addresses the drought in California and elsewhere in the West.
“Part of the bill’s natural resources title aims to bring some relief to the West, where farmers, ranchers and many others have been confronted with serious drought conditions. The bill updates some water storage and delivery projects and provides some flexibility to some states to get water to struggling farmers in rural communities,” Walmsley explained.
Also in the plus column for the legislation, according to Walmsley, it gets Congress back into a two-year cycle of considering WRDA legislation, ensuring proper congressional oversight of the Army Corps of Engineers and reasserting Congress’ role in addressing water infrastructure needs.