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WRDA Bill Advances in Congres 07/15 16:40

   House Bill Would Increase Investment in Inland Waterways, Flood-Control 
Projects

   The Water Resources Development Act of 2020 authorizes the Army Corps of 
Engineers to begin construction on 34 pending water-infrastructure projects and 
authorizes 35 separate feasibility studies on other projects. The bill includes 
several provisions to address flooding issues on the Missouri River.

Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

   OMAHA (DTN) -- The next bill detailing investments for locks and dams and 
other inland waterways investments passed out of the House Transportation and 
Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday.

   The Water Resources Development Act of 2020 authorizes the Army Corps of 
Engineers to begin construction on 34 pending water-infrastructure projects and 
authorizes 35 separate feasibility studies on other projects.  Reflecting the 
value placed on waterway projects, the bipartisan bill passed out of committee 
unanimously. The bill now goes to the House floor.

   A key provision in the WRDA bill involves funding changes that allows the 
full use of $10 billion in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to go for dredging 
ports and inland harbors. That language in the bill drew praise from the 
American Society of Civil Engineers.

   "Fully unlocking the (Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund) is an important step in 
helping raise the nation's C-plus ports grade," the civil engineers group 
stated.

   Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., ranking member of the House Transportation and 
Infrastructure Committee, pointed to devastating flooding that hit Missouri and 
other Midwest states last year. The bill includes language to implement changes 
that will help non-federal levees improve flood protection. The bill also 
includes continuing the study on the Lower Missouri River Basin Flood Risk and 
Resiliency Plan. That study will identify flood-control projects on the 
Missouri River south of the Gavins Point, South Dakota, dam.

   As part of provisions related to the Missouri River, the bill also prohibits 
the Corps from constructing additional "interception-rearing complexes" on the 
river.

   For flood-prone communities, the bill also provides new authority for water 
projects to communities seeing repetitive flood challenges up to $15 million in 
federal cost-share, "and the Corps shall consider a community's ability to 
pay," states a summary on the bill.

   The bill also changes the cost-share used for the Inland Waterways Trust 
Fund for locks and dams, such as those along the Mississippi River. Under the 
bill, 65% of the costs for an inland waterways project would come from the 
general Treasury fund, and 35% would come from the trust fund for any inland 
waterway project that starts construction before 2027. This shifts the current 
funding mix, which is 50-50.

   The Waterways Council stated the funding shift is a top priority for the 
group.  

   "This bill is a step in the right direction for inland waterways 
infrastructure by adjusting the cost-share to 65%-35% for seven years," said 
Tracy Zea, president and CEO of the Waterways Council Inc.

   The bill also includes funds for up to 30 demonstration projects for the 
Corps to find beneficial reuse of dredge material from waterways. The Corps 
will also develop a demonstration project under the bill to detect, prevent and 
eliminate harmful algal blooms.

   The American Society of Civil Engineers also detailed that the bill includes 
technical changes to dam rehabilitation programs and requires the Corps of 
Engineers to update planning guidance on sea-level rises.

   Besides authorizing projects, the bill also establishes a process to 
"deauthorize" at least $10 billion in old, inactive projects.

   For more details on the Water Resources Development Act of 2020, visit 
https://republicans-transportation.house.gov/uploadedfiles/wrda_2020_section_by_
section.pdf.

   Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

   Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN




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