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Senate Passes WRDA; Still Up For Vote in the House

The U.S. Senate has passed S. 601, the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 (WRDA) in May, and the bill’s fate is now with the House of Representatives, as it holds subcommittee hearings in preparation for a vote.

The WRDA bill would authorize federal spending on port improvements, flood protection, dam and levee projects and environmental restoration. It would authorize more than 20 new Corps projects. It would also ensure that more money in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, financed by user fees, is directed toward harbor improvements; set up a new program to promote levee safety and inland waterway projects; take steps to expedite the environmental review process; and create a commission to make recommendations on defunding old, uncompleted projects.

In May, the Senate passed its version, with just a slight glitch when a member attempted to add an amendment that would allow guns in Corps-run recreational areas, which now prohibit all firearms. That amendment was voted down, and the member, Tom Coburn (R-OK) withdrew a second gun-related amendment. Bill sponsor Barbara Boxer (D-CA) then voiced a hope that other amendments would stick to the topic of water resources.

By May, the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment had held four listening sessions, two roundtables and two hearings. 

Justin Harclerode, speaking for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told IDR that more meetings are scheduled, including a review of the Corps of Engineers Chief’s reports. He reminded IDR that the Senate had the advantage of the chairmanship of Barbara Boxer, who was chairman of the House committee last year. Current Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) only became chairman at the beginning of this year. And because 46 percent of the House members were not in Congress the last time a WRDA was passed, there is more of an educational process involved in the House, Harclerode explained.

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