Senate passes Water Resources Development Act

The following is the text of a news release from the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA):

(WASHINGTON) — The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) on Thursday lauded leaders of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) and the Senate’s Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Subcommittee for their success in advancing S.2848, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016. The Senate passed its version of the legislation Thursday by a vote of 95 to 3.

“AAPA commends EPW Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and EPW Committee and T&I Subcommittee minority ranking member Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), together with T&I Subcommittee Chairman David Vitter (R-La.), for their leadership in moving this crucial, bipartisan legislation through the Senate,” said AAPA President and CEO Kurt Nagle. “Americans need this crucial legislation to pass in order to fortify our freight transportation infrastructure, create good-paying U.S. jobs, grow our economy and enhance our international competitiveness.”

Nagle noted that Congress passed the last water resources reauthorization bill in 2014 after a seven-year hiatus. Passing it again this year would put it back, as intended, on a two-year cycle, which hasn’t happened since 2000.

“More than a quarter of America’s economy is based on the value of goods that transit in and out of our ports. In order to keep our economic recovery progressing, we must ensure these goods can move efficiently, without avoidable and costly delays caused by inadequate or poorly maintained infrastructure,” he said.

The Senate’s WRDA bill maintains many AAPA requests, including modernizing the cost-share formula for channel deepening projects, from 45 feet to 50 feet, which hasn’t been updated in 30 years, even though there have been seven generations of containerships deployed during this period (with ship sizes increasing from 3,000 to 18,000 twenty-foot equivalent units, or TEUs). Modernizing the channel deepening cost-share formula would make it similar to the maintenance cost-share formula.

The Senate bill also addresses another AAPA request to extend the authorization to provide funds to Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund donors and energy transfer ports, which Nagle cited as “an important equity issue.” Additionally, it includes revisions to streamline and expedite existing projects, as well as authorize eight new navigation developments for 21st-century freight movement in the global marketplace.

“By bringing WRDA to the Senate floor, Senate EPW Committee leaders Inhofe and Boxer, together with Senate T&I Subcommittee Chair Vitter, have demonstrated they recognize the significant benefits more modern, efficient seaport and waterway infrastructure will have on our nation’s economic vitality, job growth and international competitiveness, as well as the value in helping address federal fiscal realities through sizable tax revenues provided by the cargo and trade activity moving through these systems,” Nagle said. “Increased investments are needed to better maintain and improve the transportation infrastructure on our three coasts and the Great Lakes, linking America to the global marketplace.”

He added, “America’s public ports — which create jobs for more than 23 million U.S. residents and handle 99 percent of our nation’s overseas trade — together with their private-sector partners are investing about $31 billion annually in marine terminal infrastructure. We look forward to the House soon passing its version of WRDA, with a final bill to result in the federal government upholding its end of this partnership by authorizing badly needed investments to waterside connections with seaports.”

By Professional Mariner Staff