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Congressional policymakers have encouraged efforts to increase funding for ports and trade corridors as a transportation panel pursues an update to the Water Resources Development Act.
Citing supply chain bottlenecks and rising fuel prices amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, dozens of members of the U.S. House of Representatives have urged officials to transport policy to relaunch water projects deemed essential to deal with trade and climate change.
The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leadership is seeking input from lawmakers in determining the amount of resources needed for ports and waterways, particularly under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers.
Speaking to the panel on March 16, for example, Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) emphasized the need to prioritize dredging-related projects. As he put it, “undredged ports and harbors limit economic activity and force operators to forgo major upgrades to their facilities.”
Rep. Robert Wittman (R-Va.) drew the panel’s attention to coastal improvement projects designed to improve port access.
“Water infrastructure is critical to transporting goods across the country, from the products we all use in our daily lives to the crops and goods we produce domestically and ship overseas,” Wittman said. “The Army Corps of Engineers is vital to our Commonwealth, from the project to widen and deepen the Norfolk Harbor Canal to projects to restore public waterways across Virginia.”
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) lobbied for funding for the Padre Dam Municipal Water District. “This collaborative program is helping to protect San Diego County from drought by providing a new source of clean drinking water and eliminating 15 million gallons per day of treated wastewater discharge,” Issa explained.
WRDA by Transportation Topics
Rep. Josh Gottheimer (DN.J.) has requested approval for a flood control study in an area of New Jersey that includes the towns of Lodi, Saddle Brook, Rochelle Park and Garfield. Other lawmakers, such as Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), chair of the appropriations committee, have emphasized flood control, harbor maintenance and risk management projects in their States.
The leadership of the Transport and Infrastructure Committee said input from lawmakers would help craft the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), to improve access to ports and waterways. Amid the problems in the international supply chain, Congress has placed greater emphasis on projects to improve commercial transportation. Upgrading and modernizing such projects would ideally facilitate the flow of goods.
“As we all know, WRDA Bills provide local communities and sponsors the opportunity to partner with the [Army Corps of Engineers] on critical navigation, flood protection and ecosystem restoration projects,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chair of the transportation committee. “Earlier this year, we had the opportunity to hear from both the Biden administration and [Army Corps of Engineers] stakeholders and non-federal partners, including tribal government representatives, on their priorities for the upcoming WRDA bill.
High-ranking Republicans, such as David Rouzer (RN.C.), a member of the subcommittee on water resources and the environment, expressed optimism about the law’s potential to improve trade corridors.
“WRDA is one of the best examples of Congress working the way it should. Since 2014, Congress has passed a WRDA bill every two years,” Rouzer noted. “In addition to being on a reliable schedule, these talks have been bipartisan, and it has made a big difference for all stakeholders and our water infrastructure.”
The House panel is expected to craft the measure in the spring. The Senate counterparts have also begun examining their bill on the financing of water policy.
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