United States Senate and House of Representatives Passes Water Resource Development Act Conference Committee Report: On the President’s Desk for His Signature

On the eve of the Georgia Primary Election on Tuesday, the House, along with members of the Georgia delegation, including Congressman Jack Kingston, voted to pass the $12.3 billion dollar Water Resources and Development Act of 2013 (WRDA) overwhelmingly, 412-4. The Senate voted yesterday, 91-7 on the adoption of the conference report that accompanies WRDA, with Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson continuing to make it a top priority for Georgians.  This legislation and funding is important nationally and Georgia specifically.

Congress has not passed a water bill in six years, making the passage of WRDA incredibly important. According to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), WRDA “promotes investment in the nation’s critical water resources infrastructure, accelerates project delivery, and reforms the implementation of Corps of Engineers projects.” In particular, the EPW outlines that WRDA would implement the following changes:

1) Project Authorization – “This legislation authorizes projects with completed Chief of Engineers reports that have been referred to Congress by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works by the date of enactment.”

NOTE: This currently represents 18 projects, and the average annual benefits of just the flood and storm risk management reduction projects are greater than $690.3 million.

2) Project Delivery Reforms – WRDA “contains important reforms to increase flexibility for non-Federal sponsors of Corps projects and accelerate project delivery.”

3) Harbor Maintenance – The bill “addresses the growing surplus of funds in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund by ensuring all revenues will be spent for port maintenance without impacting other important Corps of Engineers projects.”

4) Innovative Financing – WRDA “establishes a 5-year innovative project financing pilot program, which is modeled on the successful TIFIA program.”

5) Project De-authorizations – The bill “includes a provision that requires the Corps to provide Congress with a complete list of all uncompleted, authorized projects and creates a Commission to identify projects for deauthorization.” 

The passage of the legislation is also significant since it includes financing for the long-awaited Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP), a plan 16 years in the making to deepen the harbor from 42 to 47 feet.

Congressman Jack Kingston, who represents the District had this to say: “I am proud to be here and vote for such a deserving project that has been a long-time coming and is so important to the 352,000 Georgians who rely on our ports for their jobs. I look forward to the Administration signing a Project Partnership Agreement soon so that construction can begin immediately.”  

Senator Isakson, at the Council’s water event on Monday (referenced below) discussed passage of the legislation and informed the attendees that he expected a vote next week on the final passage of the legislation.  The Senator, in the confirmation hearings for the Administration’s next HHS Secretary, Sylvia Burrell currently the head of the Office of Management and Budget, made sure to stress the importance of the bill’s passage and discussions the Senator had with OMB regarding the deepening of the Savannah port.  He had stressed that it was important to finish discussions with the OMB Director regarding the deepening of the harbor before leaving OMB. To see the exchange, watch the video below:

Isakson Demands Answers from Former OMB Director on Failure to Include SHEP in President's Budget
Isakson Demands Answers from Former OMB Director on Failure to Include SHEP in President’s Budget

The Council thanks Congressman Jack Kingston, Senator Isakson and the members of the Georgia delegation for their continued commitment to the SHEP project and commend them on the final passage of the WRDA.

To read a background from “In the Loop” May/June 2013 on the WRDA, written by Council for Quality Growth staff, click HERE