Tuesday, May 27, 2014

US Congress Approves Water Resources Legislation

By Mark Edward Nero

The US Senate on May 22 voted 91-7 to approve $12.3 billion legislation that authorizes spending on infrastructure projects to boost US ports and waterways. The House of Representatives approved the same bill on a 412-4 vote earlier in the week.

The approval by both chambers of Congress now means that the bill, HR 3080, commonly known as the Water Resources Reform & Development Act of 2014, now goes before President Obama, who is expected to sign the bill into law.

The bill, which is the first major US waterways legislation in seven years, authorizes 34 projects across the country, including dredging at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

The measure identifies more than $12 billion worth of new water infrastructure projects, particularly on the East Coast and in the South, and authorizes funding for them, including flood protection, ecosystem restoration and maintenance of ports and navigation routes for commerce and the movement of goods.

“The Water Resources Reform Development Act makes an important advancement toward a more equitable allocation of harbor maintenance dollars,” Port of LA Interim Executive Director Gary Lee Moore said in a prepared statement provided by the port. “The customers of the Port of Los Angeles are the single largest contributor to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, so we’re pleased to see the bill expand uses to fund port maintenance projects.”

In addition to authorizing crucial port projects, the bill reforms the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to increase port investment. Despite significant maintenance needs at some US ports, only roughly half of the taxes collected in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund each year are actually used for port maintenance activities.

The legislation calls for full expenditure of all revenues collected in the Trust Fund by 2025.