Today’s bipartisan introduction of the House Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 (WRRDA) is the right move by House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA). With all the uncertainties facing Congress this fall, keeping WRRDA on track must remain a priority. The release of today’s proposal puts the legislative process back on track and manufacturers greatly appreciate the bipartisan approach.
This legislation is critical to the competitiveness of manufacturers throughout the United States and will ensure continued investment in our 12,000 miles of inland and coastal waterways. Our nation’s navigable rivers help keep transportation costs competitive and are vital for manufacturers’ supply chains to move products and commodities such as coal, petroleum, chemicals, steel, fertilizer and grain among others valued at approximately $185 billion.
The Senate passed its version, S.601 in May and Chairman Shuster is making every effort to get this legislation to the finish line. He even posted a clever YouTube video today to articulate the significance of legislation authorizing funding for ports, inland waterways and other key water resource projects.
The addition of the word “reform” is a signature mark from the T&I Chairman and manufacturers could not agree more. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, inland waterway shippers experience – on average — 52 service interruptions a day on the entire system, meaning locks close due to either construction activity or an outright failure, with the latter increasing in frequency. With over half of the locks exceeding their design life, the need to modernize is well-documented and needless red-tape only adds to the challenge when repairs or replacements are required.
Manufacturers strongly support the measures to streamline environmental reviews. This builds off the success of coordinated reviews for federal highway and transit projects. It’s a proven process that works, saving time and money. The Federal Highway Administration recently found that environmental streamlining has cut the time to permit a highway project in half, from 73 months down to 37 months. Reducing red tape to deliver Army Corps-sponsored infrastructure projects is important progress.
Manufacturers also appreciate the Committee’s commitment to addressing the long-standing issue of under-investment in our nation’s ports and harbors. For too long, ocean shippers from nearly every sector of economy have helped finance a robust Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) that has not been allowed to expend funds in a manner that is commensurate with the demands our economy places on the nation’s ports and harbors. Too often, funds derived from Harbor Maintenance fees are diverted elsewhere instead of going into our ports and harbors for regular upkeep.
Manufacturers rely on our nation’s inland waterways and ports to support jobs and grow. Our nation will fall even further behind if we do not make the needed investments in critical transportation infrastructure. To read a summary of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013, click here.