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Tracking the progress of the Water Resources Development Act

On April 17, the House of Representatives Rules Committee outlined 26 amendments that had been submitted to the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, which authorizes water projects for funding in a further process. By the time you see this, the House may have already considered the bill, and the Senate is expected to discuss their version the week of May 7.

But even after the fact, it is important to know the issues and processes involved, particularly where maintaining shipping channels is concerned.

One amendment by Bart Stupak of Michigan proposes that all ports receive consideration for dredging funds regardless of tonnage handled. As James Weakley told Congress on February 16, loss of one inch of draft eliminates 8000 tons per year of carrying capacity by that ship. This is true whether the ship calls at a large or small port, and points up how inter-connected the whole shipping system is. Assessing importance of a port by tons handled, or a navigation channel by usage in ton-miles ignores the smaller links in the transportation chain. Eliminate links in a chain and you eliminate the chain.

The other 25 amendments will be accepted or rejected by the committee and a final version prepared to present on the House floor.

On April 18, the Bush Administration issued a policy statement strongly opposing H.R. 1495 – Water Resources Development Act of 2007. The basis of this opposition is objection to the cost of projects, objection to certain projects (specifically beach re-nourishment) altogether, and objection to the amount of federal share in many projects.

Because of size restraints, we can’t include this statement in this issue, but you can find it on our web site – www.dredgemag.com – or write or call for a faxed or mailed copy.

Waterways interests have spent years presenting facts and figures regarding the benefits to all of waterborne commerce. (See example on page 28 of this issue.) Cost-sharing formulae have been in place in this country since 1986, and were established after long debate on the levels of responsibility local, state and federal entities should bear in funding water projects. In the long run the taxpayers themselves foot the entire bill, whether through their city, state or federal taxes. Large infrastructure projects cannot go forward in most of the United States without federal participation. Members of Congress who are listening to waterway spokespeople are attempting to authorize wise expenditure of federal money on navigation projects that benefit the economic health of the nation.

The WRDA bills should be passed by the House and Senate this year, and the president needs to listen to the will of the people on this and sign the bill.

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