Historically, every two years Congress passes water resource legislation commonly called the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) to provide oversight, policy and funding for water projects around the United States that are completed by the Army Corps of Engineers. It is through this legislation that the US’s vital waterway infrastructure, flood protection and environmental restoration needs are met. Unfortunately, this legislation has been caught up by delays and a bill has not been passed since 2007.
Last week Ohio Congressman Bob Gibbs introduced bipartisan legislation that seeks to reform the way in which WRDA is written, authorized and implemented. It is the Congressman’s hope that the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2013 (H.R. 3080) will promote our nation’s competitiveness, prosperity and economic growth by upholding the seminal federal responsibly to maintain a strong transportation infrastructure and ensure the efficient flow of domestic and international commerce. In past WRDA legislation there have always been several projects in Ohio funded, many dealing with the ports along Lake Erie vital to Ohio’s commerce.
Without the biennial passage of WRDA, the Army Corps continue to operate without direction or oversight from Congress. Permit and review times remain tied up in red tape costing time and money. Some Army Corps projects have stalled or stopped. State and local governments have limited opportunities for completion of projects.
Under the proposed bill, hard deadlines will be set on reviews and studies as well as the consolidation and streamlining of environmental reviews. Additionally, old or inactive projects will be deauthorized and sunsets created to prevent stalled projects in the future. The bill seeks to establish a new, transparent process for future WRDA bills to prioritize water resource development activities with Congressional oversight. Most importantly, the bill will authorize much needed investments in America’s ports to improve navigation and commerce.
The first legislative hearing on WRRDA will be held tomorrow, Thursday, September 19th at 10:00am. For more information on the legislation, and for a live coverage of Thursday’s hearing please click here.