House passes expansive waterways legislation

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A water resources bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives with 417 votes last week would address dredging issues, do a comprehensive study of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, require that the Army Corps of Engineers see the Great Lakes as one system rather than port by port and begin addressing how to spend money from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.

Those are just some of the issues covered in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, spearheaded by House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., that passed the House and is headed to a House-Senate conference committee, National Marine Manufacturers Association legislative counsel Jeff Gabriel told Trade Only Today.

The 417-3 vote “is news enough in this atmosphere,” Gabriel said. “It has lots in it — it is the nation’s investment in water-based infrastructure.” The Senate passed a version of the bill in May.

“The margin by which this bill passed shows that with strong leadership and a willingness to stare down those incapable of ever admitting there is a role for strategic public investments, it is possible to pass bipartisan jobs-creating transportation legislation,” AFL-CIO transportation trades department president Edward Wytkind said in a statement.

The 180-page bill revises requirements for feasibility studies under the Water Resources Development Act of 1986. Those studies would be limited to three years, the cost would be limited to $3 million and the Army Corps of Engineers would be required to initiate reviews within 90 days of the studies.

According to a bill summary, navigation feasibility studies would be required in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and Georgia.

Flood risk management would be assessed in Kansas, California, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Kentucky.

Hurricane and storm-damage risk reduction would be studied in North Carolina and California, and hurricane and storm-damage risk reduction and environmental restoration would be studied in Mississippi.

Environmental restoration would be studied in Maryland, Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota and North Carolina.

The bill modifies projects that include navigation at Miami Harbor, Miami-Dade County, Fla., and at the lower Ohio River, Illinois and Kentucky.

— Reagan Haynes

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