International Dredging Review

International Dredging Review

On Wednesday August 1 the Bush administration sent a letter to James Oberstar Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure stating that President Bush intends to veto the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2007 which has been passed by both the House and the Senate and is now in conference.

The letter was written and signed by John Paul Woodley Jr. Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works and Rob Portman director of the Office of Management and Budget and states cost as the reason for the threatened veto.

The letter stated that “The Administration has urged the Congress to limit the total cost of the authorizations in this WRDA and to authorize only those projects that would provide a high net return on investment and fall within the three main Corps mission areas.

“Unfortunately” the letter continues “the conference has reported a bill that exceeds significantly the $15 billion estimated cost of the House-passed bill which is the higher cost of the House and Senate bills. Indeed it seems a $14 billion Senate bill went into a conference with the House’s $15 billion bill and somehow a bill emerged costing approximately $20 billion.”

“This is not how most Americans would expect their representatives in Washington to reach agreement especially when it is their tax dollars that are being spent” Woodley and Portman stated.

“Because the conference version of H.R. 1495 significantly exceeds the cost of either the House or Senate bill and contains other unacceptable provisions discussed below the President will veto the bill” the letter continues.
Ironically the letter was delivered the day the Interstate-35W highway bridge in Minneapolis collapsed during rush hour.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) responded to the bridge collapse by referring to the poor marks they had given to the nation’s infrastructure in 2005 a result of failure of the government to provide funding for maintenance repair and replacement of roads bridges dams levees and other structures and failure to authorize and fund maintenance dredging of many channels in the inland waterway system. On the ASCE web site the organization reiterated the actions they had suggested to Congress in March that would set the nation on the path to repairing and improving the infrastructure.

ASCE’s 2005 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure assessed the condition and capacity of the nation’s public works with an overall grade of D.

“From long commutes and dirty water to unsafe dams and bridges with each passing day failing infrastructure is threatening the economy and quality of life in every state city and town in America” the accompanying report stated.

ASCE estimated that the United States needs to invest $1.6 trillion in federal state and local funds over a five-year period to bring the nation’s infrastructure to a good condition–one that meets the needs of today’s population though it doesn’t take growth into consideration.

Inland waterway navigation including dredging and lock and dam maintenance repair and replacement are among the infrastructure components in the ASCE assessment. Passage of a WRDA bill and ensuring the integrity of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund were among the measures the ASCE urged Congress to pass during a fly-in of ASCE members on March 7 in Washington. Similar efforts on the part of National Waterways Conference members Inland Rivers Ports and Terminals and other navigation-related groups resulted in passage of WRDA 2007 by the House and Senate.