WRRDA Conference Agreement Reached

Includes Four Major CPD Elements

Waterways Council Release
15 May 2014

After many months of negotiation between the Senate and House, today a conference agreement was filed and released on the 2014 Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) by Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Chairman Barbara Boxer and Ranking Member David Vitter, and House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee Chairman Bill Shuster and Ranking Member Nick Rahall. 

The conference agreement contains four major recommendations of the Capital Development Plan (CDP):

Olmsted Federalization: permanent cost-sharing for the remaining cost of the Olmsted project will be 85% General Fund, 15% Inland Waterways Trust Fund, freeing up approximately $105 million per year for funding other Trust Fund priority projects with Olmsted funded at $150 million per year.

Definition of Major Rehabilitation Project Eligible for Inland Waterways Trust Fund: increased from current law level of $14 million to $20 million and adjusted annually for inflation.

Prioritization of Projects: based upon risk of failure and economic benefit to the Nation (as proposed by the CDP).

Project Delivery: based upon CDP-recommended reforms to achieve on-time and on-budget performance.

The conference agreement also establishes annual target appropriations levels for increased spending of funds from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) leading to full use of HMTF funds by 2025.  

Of note, WRRDA increases port channel depth from 45 to 50 feet before non-Federal cost-sharing is required for Operations & Maintenance (O&M).  The conference report also establishes a new 65/35 cost-sharing requirement for hurricane and storm protection projects that cross inland or intracoastal waterways and clarifies Corps of Engineers’ responsibilities for those projects. 

The last major element of the CDP that must be addressed by Congress is an increase to the diesel fuel user fee.  House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Camp has included a 6-cent increase to the user fee in his February discussion draft of a tax reform bill.  Senator Casey introduced an amendment to increase the user fee by 9 cents in the tax extenders bill in late March, but withdrew it when it was ruled non-germane.  He is seeking to add the amendment to the first appropriate revenue bill.  

WCI urges its members and stakeholders to express their thanks for a strong WRRDA conference agreement to our particular conference champions: Senate EPW Committee Chairman Boxer and Ranking Member Vitter, and House T&I Committee Chairman Shuster and Ranking Member Rahall; and House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs and Ranking Member Tim Bishop.  Thanks too to T&I Committee Vice Chairman Congressman Jimmy Duncan.

And special thanks are also due to Rep. Ed Whitfield and Rep. Daniel Lipinski and the 31 co-sponsors of the WAVE 4: Waterways are Vital for the Economy, Energy, Efficiency, and Environment Act (H.R. 1149).  And great appreciation as well is due Senator Bob Casey, Senator Lamar Alexander, Senator Mary Landrieu, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Senator Tom Harkin, and Senator Al Franken for authoring The RIVER Act: Reinvesting in Vital Economic Rivers and Waterways Act (S. 407).

WCI urges Congressional approval of the long-awaited WRRDA bill, and President Obama’s signature into law. 

Use WCI’s Action Alert here to send your thanks to members of the Senate and House for their work on WRRDA:


WCI Chairman Matt Woodruff has offered the following reflections on the process that led to WRRDA’s inland waterways provisions:  “Over five years ago, Waterways Council, along with the Inland Waterways Users Board, began advocating for a comprehensive set of project delivery and funding reforms to ensure long-term reliability and efficiency of our inland waterways system.  Many said it couldn’t be done, and some suggested we were foolhardy for trying.  But we persevered, and in partnership with visionary Corps leaders, developed a plan, of which many components will become law with WRRDA 2014.  As we pause to enjoy this success and thank the leaders in Congress who turned our suggestions into law, we must prepare to finish the job by enacting the plan’s revenue component, and recognize that the plan is living and dynamic.   We must continually weigh and balance the system’s many needs against available resources to ensure we maximize the reliability and efficiency of the system upon which our nation is so heavily reliant.  At the same time, we must continually build support for the appropriations that are an essential annual component to the plan’s execution.” 

A very grateful THANK YOU! to WCI’s members and to our many partners for their efforts to make this long journey into reality.