The House and Senate have reached a conference agreement on the Water Resource Development Act (WRDA) which would provide an $8.2 billion boost to U.S. ports and waterways.
Legislative text hasn’t been made public yet. A joint statement from the chairman and ranking members from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the House Transportation Committee said the conference report “maintains ports and navigation routes for commerce and the movement of goods, provides flood control that protects lives and property, and restores vital ecosystems to preserve our natural heritage.”
The statement also said the leaders will prepare the final legislation to go to the House and Senate floor for a vote during the week of May 12.
Both the House and Senate versions of the bill were passed last year with overwhelming support, but talks had since slowed down during conference negotiations. WRDA would increase funding for waterway development projects, such as deepening waterways and lock and dam repair and upgrades.
Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soybean Transportation Coalition, said he anticipates the bill will direct the Corps to examine alternative financing approaches that may result in better project execution, including the use of public-private partnerships. He also expects it will direct the federal government to assume more responsibility for the over-budget Olmsted Lock and Dam project. Steenhoek also said he’s optimistic language will call for increased funding for harbor maintenance.
“Obviously we won’t know for sure until the conference report is publicly released next week, but the feedback I received was certainly cause for optimism,” Steenhoek shared.