In a vote of 417 to 3 Wednesday evening, the House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA). The American Soybean Association (ASA) supports the bill, and congratulated House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leadership following its passage. “ASA welcomes tonight’s passage of the WRRDA bill and commends Chairman Shuster and Ranking member Rahall, as well as Subcommittee Chairman Gibbs and Ranking Member Bishop, for their persistence and support in the process of addressing our waterways infrastructure,” said ASA President Danny Murphy, a soybean farmer from Canton, Miss. “As tonight’s vote illustrates, this bill enjoys broad bipartisan support in the House, as it does in the Senate and within the administration. With that in mind, we call on the House and the Senate to convene the conference committee as soon as possible so that a final bill can be passed and sent to President Obama before the end of this year.”
The WRRDA bill includes provisions to streamline environmental reviews; establish hard deadlines and cost caps on project studies; allow non-federal interests to contribute funds to expedite project components; annually increase the amount of funding that is provided from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) for port maintenance and dredging; and free up money and increase the capacity of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) and requiring the Corps to study and report on bonding, user fees, and other potential funding sources.
“Soybeans are the nation’s leading farm export, and each bushel we export depends on our waterways infrastructure, whether that’s in the form of a river channel, a lock and dam, or a port,” added Murphy. “Unfortunately, in recent years, each of those elements has begun to suffer due to lack of upkeep and investment, and this bill takes a great step to reversing that trend.”
The House bill will now move on to conference with the Senate’s Water Resources Development Act (S. 601) to iron out areas in which the two bills differ. S. 601 includes similar provisions supported by ASA to annually increase the amount of funding that is provided from the HMTF for port maintenance and dredging; to streamline the process for Corps of Engineers projects and reduce project completion times; and to free up money and increase the capacity of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF).
Additionally, the Senate version includes an amendment supported by ASA that would exempt small farms that store oil in aboveground tanks from federal oil spill regulations. The amendment would set storage tank thresholds below which agricultural operations would be excluded from U.S. EPA’s Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Rule (SPCC).