Update on Senate Consideration of Water Resources Development Act
Currently, the Senate continues its consideration of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) and work through amendments being offered. It is expected to be on the Senate floor into next week.The underlying bill, as reported out of committee, included provisions to wall off the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), thus providing significant additional funding for port and harbor maintenance and dredging. The bill also included reforms intended to streamline the process for Corps of Engineers projects and reduce project completion times. These are provisions that ASA strongly supports.The manager’s amendment offered by the bill sponsors and adopted by the Senate, includes provisions to free up money and increase the capacity of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) by taking the Olmsted Lock and Dam project out of the trust fund account. This action would enable funding to go to other waterways infrastructure, including locks and dams on the Upper Mississippi River.Additionally, the adopted amendment includes compromise language on the streamlined process for Corps projects, as well as a compromise on the HMTF that would provide, under certain circumstances, increased funding annually for port maintenance and dredging, but not wall-off the trust fund entirely.Unfortunately, neither the underlying bill nor the manager’s amendment included provisions to increase IWTF revenues. ASA supports increased funding and/or alternative financing mechanisms to provide more money to address inland waterways infrastructure projects.Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is planning to offer an amendment to add provisions of his Mississippi River Navigation Sustainment Act (S. 565) to WRDA. Much of S. 565 has been incorporated into the WRDA, but Senator Durbin’s amendment will add a study of the Mississippi River Basin to the bill. It is intended to help better understand how the Basin functions and how it can be managed to maintain safe and reliable navigation and protect lives and property, especially during times of extreme flooding and drought.ASA encourages all members to visit the Soy Action Center and urge their Senators to oppose any efforts to roll back the provisions in S. 601 to streamline the review process for Corps of Engineers projects; and to support amendments that may be offered to increase funding for IWTF.