House GOP readies bill to boost waterways for September

The Hill

By Keith Laing – 08/02/13 02:55 PM ET

Republican leaders in the House are planning to begin moving their version of a bill to boost waterways in September, officials with the chamber’s Transportation Committee announced on Friday.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said the panel would begin debate on new Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) when lawmakers return from their summer recess in five weeks.

Shuster said the bill was one of his “top priorities” and would contain “unprecedented water resources infrastructure reform.”

“This bill will be the most policy and reform-focused legislation of its kind in the last two decades,” Shuster said in a statement. “This legislation will contain no earmarks and will make major reforms to increase transparency, accountability, and Congressional oversight in reviewing and prioritizing future water resources development activities.”

Shuster added that the water bill would “cut federal red tape and bureaucracy, streamline the project delivery process, promote fiscal responsibility, and strengthen our water transportation networks to promote American competitiveness, prosperity, and economic growth.”

The Senate has already begun moving its own version of the water resources bill, though Shuster has expressed concern about the upper chamber’s approach to the legislation.

“If we do something similar [to the Senate] … the Congress will once again give up its constitutional authority to the executive branch and we’ll never get it back,” Shuster said of the Senate’s version of the water legislation.
The upper chamber’s plan calls for allowing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to select projects for investment from the water bill during a speech in March.

The WRRDA bill only contains the authorization for expenditures on waterways. The funding itself will have to be approved by the congressional appropriations committees.

The chairman of the House Transportation Committee’s subcommittee on Water Issues said the measure would increase the speed of new projects to boost waterways.

“We are literally studying infrastructure projects to death,” Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) said in a statement.

“While it once took the Corps of Engineers three to five years to complete a study, it has now become the norm for this process to take 10 to 15 years,” Gibbs continued. “The unwieldy review process remains tied up in red tape, costing us time and money and preventing action. Congress must change the way the Corps of Engineers does business.”

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement that he was looking forward to the Transportation Committee “moving a bill that addresses our infrastructure needs in a fiscally responsible manner.”

The last WRDA bill was similarly controversial. The measure was approved in 2007 after lawmakers overrode a veto from then-President George W. Bush.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Waterways Council, Inc.