As the Senate prepares to take up the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2013 (S. 601) next week, manufacturers are preparing to articulate the importance of this critical legislation to the nation’s competitiveness and ensuring the country has a modern transportation infrastructure that is poised to meet the demands of increased trade and a growing economy. The nation’s inland waterways are a quiet mode of transportation but it is now time to turn the spotlight on to the value of this vast 12,000-mile system to manufacturing and other industries critical to the economy. The inland waterways help keep transportation costs competitive and move products and commodities valued at $78 billion.
To gear up for the anticipated Senate action on S. 601, manufacturers heard from a panel of experts at the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) headquarters in Washington, DC. More than half of the locks on waterways are more than 50 years old, and others date back to the turn of the last century, said Mike Toohey, president and CEO of the Waterways Council, Inc. “We’re not keeping pace,” Toohey added.
Our rivers, ports and harbors in the United States are unique natural resources that have tremendously benefitted our commercial success as an industrial nation. Maintaining these systems is a federal responsibility that is rooted in the Constitution and the founding of our nation. Awareness of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and the fact that Congress has not kept pace with investments needed to keep the nation’s ports and harbors properly dredged to their authorized depths has reached a new high, said Barry Holliday, chairman of the Realizing America’s Maritime Promise Coalition.
National Waterways Conference President Amy Larson said that lawmakers in both the House and Senate are aware of the importance of WRDA. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and ranking member David Vitter (R-LA) are committed to bringing the bill to the floor, while House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) is also working to build support.
Several challenges remain unresolved at this point in time but manufacturers appreciate the bipartisan effort the Senate and Environment and Public Works Committee has undertaken to develop the legislation. It is time to invest in the infrastructure our manufacturers depend on. This legislation is long overdue.
Robyn Boerstling is director of transportation and infrastructure policy, National Association of Manufacturers.