House handily passes waterways improvement measure
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WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives on May 20 passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (W.R.R.D.A.) by a vote of 412 to 4. It was expected the Senate will approve the bill later this week and send it on to the President Barack Obama for his signature.
The act included provisions that will free up significant funding within the Inland Waterways Trust Fund for additional waterways infrastructure projects, increase the level of Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund dollars that will be spent on port maintenance and dredging, streamline the Army Corps of Engineers’ project review process, increase the Corps’ flexibility to maintain navigation during low water events, and promote the use of alternative financing and public-private partnerships to fund waterways infrastructure.
“This legislation continues to be a huge priority for soybean farmers,” said Ray Gaesser, an Iowa farmer and president of the American Soybean Association. “Not only do we need reliable waterways infrastructure to move our soybeans to market here domestically, the waterways are also a vital component of our international trade system, which saw us export more than $27 billion in soybeans last year as the nation’s top farm export. Our waterways are part of a significant competitive advantage for American soybean farmers, and we must continue to invest in them.”
The National Corn Growers Association also praised House passage of the bill.
“We thank our representatives in the House for their near-unanimous support and work to ensure passage of this important legislation, which makes concrete steps toward repairing and improving our inland waterways,” said Martin Barbre, N.C.G.A. president. “W.R.R.D.A. is crucial to farmers as more than 60% of the nation’s grain exports are transported by barge. The locks and dams we depend upon to transport our cargoes today were built in the 1920s and 1930s. It is imperative that we improve this crucial infrastructure. The need is urgent; U.S. farmers and businesses rely upon this transportation channel. Infrastructure improvements fuel our domestic economy and improve our ability to compete in markets abroad.”
The N.C.G.A. also was hopeful that Congress will soon address a proposed increase to the diesel fuel user fee, which would provide additional revenue to the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. By increasing this tax between 6c and 9c per gallon of fuel, the industries using the waterways would be able to provided needed funds for the improvement and maintenance of the infrastructure on which they rely, Mr. Barbre said.