Representatives of public seaports in the United States today applauded efforts in Congress to enact long overdue water resources legislation after action in the Senate yesterday and the House last month on separate bills. The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2007 addresses a seven-year backlog of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers programs, including navigation projects, policies and procedures necessary to keep pace with today's burgeoning trade.
Late yesterday afternoon, the Senate passed its version of the WRDA (H.R. 1495 Amended) by a vote of 91-4. The U.S. House of Representatives approved its version of the bill on April 19 (H.R. 1495) by a vote of 394-25. Next, a House-Senate conference committee will review both versions and negotiate the final bill before sending it to the President.
"AAPA and our member ports have worked hard to get this crucial piece of legislation through the House and Senate," said Kurt Nagle, AAPA's president and CEO. "America's ports depend upon a regular, biennial cycle of new project authorizations to improve federal navigation channels to accommodate calls from a modern world fleet of deep-draft ships, but it's been seven years since the last WRDA bill was approved."
Although the legislation is supposed to be biennial, the last WRDA bill was signed into law in 2000. In the intervening years, demand for critical water resources projects has accumulated, as have the costs to implement them.
Numerous projects and provisions in the WRDA 2007 omnibus bill will help address port waterside infrastructure needs. Included are projects for navigation channel deepening, dredged material disposal and storage facilities, and policy provisions to improve the Corps of Engineers project implementation process.
Policy provisions supported by AAPA include expanding the use of Corps dredges in the Pacific Northwest and providing for joint federal/local legal liability for project cooperation agreements, or PCAs.
Although the White House has voiced its opposition to the bill because of its estimated $15 billion price tag for 700 projects, the high figure is due in part to the inclusion of several large new projects related to restoration of Coastal Louisiana wetlands, as well as the fact that seven years have passed since the last WRDA.
"AAPA encourages Congress to move quickly to agree on a final bill and urges the President to sign it," said Mr. Nagle. "This bill is vital to maintaining America's position as a dominant world trading partner and to keep our ports working as engines of the nation's economic growth."