The House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) by a significant margin this week (417 to 3). The American Soybean Association (ASA) supports the bill, and congratulated House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leadership following its passage.
The bill has broad bipartisan support in the House, Senate and administration. ASA and other groups hope the House and Senate will convene the conference committee as soon as possible so a final bill can be passed and sent to President Obama before the end of the 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.
Waterways are extremely important to agriculture, particularly corn and soybeans, whether in the form of a river channel, a lock and dam, or a port. However, in recent years, many of these elements have suffered due to lack of upkeep and investment. This bill will keep that trend from continuing.
The House bill will move 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 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 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).