The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously approved the $10 billion Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRDA), H.R. 3080, today. The mark up of the legislation went smoothly with limited debate on amendments. During mark-up several members of the committee provided amendments to speed up the expenditure of funds out of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, however each was withdrawn from consideration after it was made known that they would not pass through the full House.
During the hearing Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) drove the message home that “WRRDA is the most policy and reform focused legislation of its kind in the last two decades”. He went on further to state that the “bill contains no earmarks and makes reforms needed to increase transparency, accountability, and Congressional oversight of federal water resources development. At its heart, WRRDA is about jobs and improving America’s competitiveness. A strong water transportation network is critical to keeping pace with other nations that are improving their own infrastructure networks and gaining ground in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.”
WRRDA would seek to increase the amount of money spent from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, require the Army Corps of Engineers to send Congress annual reports on proposed activities, and set up a process to deauthorize $12 billion in programs. It also would include provisions to speed up the environmental review process, such as limiting feasibility studies to three years and federal costs of a study to $3 million, and establishing a process to elevate issues that could delay the process to agency heads.
At this point WRRDA has not received much push back from conservative groups that often publicly criticize infrastructure spending bills. In fact, many of those groups, which have the ear of the most conservative members of the House, have praised WRRDA’s reforms, while admitting they would preferred to have seen them go further. This lukewarm reception will benefit WRRDA as it is considered by the House in early October.