WRDA/WRRDA Conferees Hold Opening Meeting

Waterways Council Release
21 November 2013

With numerous declarations of support for the bipartisan water resources bills that have passed their respective chambers, the House and Senate conferees appointed to resolve the differences between S. 601, the Water Resources Development Act, and HR 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), pledged to move forward in an expeditious manner to prepare a conference report for final Congressional approval.      

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, serves as the conference committee chair, with Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, serving as Vice Chairman.  Boxer touted WRDA as a great opportunity to show how things can get done and thanked the 160 organizations who have supported the legislation.  Shuster tied moving the bills forward to job creation and the nation’s economic success.         

Among the topics discussed at the meeting were the importance of establishing a project authorization process that retains the Congress’s Constitutional authority, the need to spend the revenues from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, and the importance of maintaining the inland waterways system.

While there is general agreement over the need to move forward with the legislation, areas in dispute include the project streamlining provisions, with assertions that they undermine existing environmental laws; whether to establish a National Endowment for the Oceans, included in the Senate bill, compared to a House provision that would restrict the Corps’ participation in the National Ocean Policy; and the Senate provision (section 2014) that would permit reoperation of dams without Congressional approval or cost-share requirements.      
The Senate will be in recess for 2 weeks – Thanksgiving week and the following week, with the House scheduled to be out for one week.  Negotiations are expected to continue over the next two weeks, as staff continues to meet on a regular basis.  At this point, both chambers are expected to adjourn on December 13th.  The conference committee is not expected to meet again publicly until it has agreed upon a conference report.  While there is some speculation that could come before December 13, neither Sen. Boxer nor Rep. Shuster would make that commitment. We will continue to keep you apprised of developments.         

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