Senate passes WRDA bill

Published on: May 15, 2013

The Senate passed its Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which contains a number of critically important provisions related to the modernization of inland waterways lock and dam infrastructure.

Fifty-seven percent (57%) of the locks and dams on the nation’s inland waterways system have exceeded their economic design life expectancy.

Of specific interest to inland waterways stakeholders, the final WRDA bill was amended by the managers to include elements of the RIVER Act to remove the over-budget and long-delayed Olmsted lock and dam project from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF), the remainder of the cost to be paid 100% by general treasury revenue and not cost-shared 50-50 through the IWTF. This action will free up around $750 million to the IWTF to complete other critical priority navigation projects.

An increase in the threshold for major rehabilitation, from the current $14 million to $20 million, was also approved.

Also included in the WRDA bill is prioritization of navigation projects and revamping of project delivery processes to achieve on time and within budget performance. Prioritization is based upon risk of failure and benefits to the nation with an emphasis on finishing projects already underway and ensuring that funding is available to efficiently complete work. Ensuring that future Corps’ estimates for project costs have a confidence level of at least 80% is also included.

Illinois Corn Growers Assn. president Paul Taylor, said, "WRDA gets us headed down the right path. With it we'd see a re-prioritization of funding with the federalization of the Olmsted project. We'd also see a more responsive system in times of extreme weather events to answer navigation concerns. We're looking forward to enhanced public-private partnerships."

Not included in the Senate WRDA bill is the industry-supported provision to increase the diesel fuel user fee. The Constitution requires that revenue enhancement measures originate in the House of Representatives, therefore this provision must originate in the House version of WRDA or be added to some other revenue measure.