WRRDA Passes!

Waterways Council E-brief
27 May 2014

On May 22, the Water Resources Reform Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014, containing major recommendations of the Capital Development Plan (CDP), was passed by a vote 91-7 in the Senate, clearing the bill to be sent to the President for his signature.  The conference agreement passed the House two days earlier on May 20 by an overwhelming 412-4 vote.  The bill contains four key elements of the Capital Development Plan that were included in the House WAVE 4 (H.R. 1149) and Senate RIVER Act (S. 407) bills, both strongly supported by WCI:

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.

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

The bill also increases annual target appropriations levels for spending of funds from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), with full use of HMTF funds by 2025.  
Implementation of many provisions in WRRDA will not happen immediately, as the Corps and the Secretary of the Army first must develop and provide guidance with respect to the provisions before they can be implemented.

The seven "nay" votes were from Republican senators Richard Burr (NC), Tom Coburn (OK), Jeff Flake (AZ), Ron Johnson (WI), Mike Lee (UT), John McCain (AZ) and Pat Roberts (KS).   Others who voted no on the bill last year, but yes for the final conference report, were Senators Marco Rubio (FL), John Cornyn (TX), Rand Paul (KY) and Tim Scott (SC).

In a WCI press release on WRRDA’s passage, WCI Chairman Matt Woodruff said, “The nation’s towboat operators, shippers, and labor, port, conservation and agriculture stakeholder members of WCI applauded today’s passage of WRRDA.   This bill – and, we hope, law – will create American jobs, increase U.S. exports, keep our nation competitive in world markets, and enhance the reliability of the nation’s waterways transportation mode and critical supply chain link.  Today, Congress got it done and voted to keep America moving!” 

WCI urges its members to express thanks for a strong WRRDA outcome to our particular conference champions: Senate EPW Committee Chairman Boxer and Ranking Member Vitter, and House T&I Committee Chairman Shuster, Vice Chairman Congressman Jimmy Duncan, and Ranking Member Rahall; House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs and Ranking Member Tim Bishop;  Rep. Ed Whitfield and Rep. Daniel Lipinski and the 31 co-sponsors of WAVE 4: Waterways are Vital for the Economy, Energy, Efficiency, and Environment Act (H.R. 1149); and Senators Bob Casey, Lamar Alexander, Mary Landrieu,  Amy Klobuchar, Tom Harkin, and Al Franken for authoring The RIVER Act: Reinvesting in Vital Economic Rivers and Waterways Act (S. 407).

Use WCI’s Action Alert here to express your thanks to members of the Senate and House for their work on WRRDA:  http://cqrcengage.com/wci/home

Tax extenders legislation on the Senate floor is temporarily stalled after a cloture vote on a motion to proceed failed two weeks ago.  Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) have filed an amendment to the bill that calls for a 9-cent increase in the current 20 cents-per-gallon inland waterways diesel fuel tax.  Senator Casey had offered a similar amendment weeks ago when the tax extenders bill was being marked up in committee, but the amendment was withdrawn after germaneness objections were raised.  If the Casey/Landrieu amendment is not added to the tax extenders bill, it is likely that it will be added to another revenue measure later this year.  When passed, a 9-cent user fee increase could add another $80 million annually to the Corps’ Construction General Account, with half of that drawn from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund.

Keeping to House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers’ plan to restore regular order by move all 12 FY ’15 appropriations bills this year, five of the 12 bills have been acted on to date.  The Energy & Water Development (E&WD) bill that funds the Corps of Engineers Civil Works program is not among the bills that have been considered so far in the House, but it is likely that the E&WD bill will be taken up and passed during June.  Defense Appropriations is likely to be up later this week after the House returns from the Memorial Day recess.   

In the Senate, June 19 is the date tentatively set for an Energy & Water Development Subcommittee mark-up. 

Healthy funding levels for the Corps of Engineers are expected in both the House and Senate.  While the bill’s 302(b) allocation in the House was $50 million lower than FY ‘14’s funding level, there remains strong support for Corps of Engineers programs, particularly on the heels of WRRDA’s passage.  In the Senate, 302(b) allocations were announced last week and the allocation for the E&WD bill is $150 million above the FY ‘14 level and $198 million above the House level. 

WCI, in concert with the Port of Pittsburgh Commission, presented WCI’s  2014 Leadership Service Award to Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) for his strong and continued inland waterway leadership on May 19 aboard the M/V Princess, Gateway Clipper Fleet in Pittsburgh.  Senator Casey was selected to receive the award at WCI’s February meeting in Washington, DC, which was disrupted by inclement weather. 

Senator Casey is a long-time champion of America’s inland waterways and original sponsor of S. 407, “Reinvesting in Vital Economic Rivers and Waterways” (RIVER) Act of 2013, with six bipartisan cosponsors. This effort was instrumental in advancing The Water Resource Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), legislation that will support commerce and create jobs by improving navigable waterways on the inland river system and at ports.

BG Margaret Burcham, Commander of the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division, will move to the Joint Staff at the Pentagon and will be replaced by BG Richard Kaiser.  Her Command Change Ceremony will take place in Cincinnati on May 28.

WCI’s has developed an Action Alert to improve waterfowl habitat with an immediate start for the Navigation-Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP). Send a letter of support through this link:  http://waterwayscouncil.org/action-center-2/