With the Federal government now reopened, the Water Resources Reform Development Act (WRRDA) – H.R. 3080. – will head to the House floor next week, likely October 23 or 24, to be voted on. The bill is expected to pass. Senator Barbara Boxer, Chair of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, has said the House bill will be immediately conferenced with the Senate version, S. 601. A final bill could be completed before Thanksgiving.
The passage of last night’s Continuing Resolution to fund the Federal government and raise the debt ceiling contained a provision to raise the 902(b) cap on the amount that can be spent on the Olmsted Project in Illinois to $2.9 billion from the current $1.56 billion. The measure does not appropriate funds, but allows work on the critically important project to continue. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers informed the Inland Waterways Users Board in August that the Olmsted project would be shuttered in November 2013 and would displace 400 workers if Congress did not act the raise the cap.
In response to the Corps’ announcement, the Senate-passed Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill, the House Water Resources Reform Development Act (WRRDA) bill, and the FY 2014 Energy & Water Appropriations bill all contain provisions to raise the 902(b) cap but will not become law before the project would have shut down in November.
If Olmsted were to have shut down, according to the Corps, it would have cost $40 million to restart the project, and of course, needlessly delay its delivery.
“To be clear, no money has been expended in this action by Congress. It simply raises the ceiling on the cost of project that was set in 1986 to allow work to continue in 2013 and beyond,” said Michael J. Toohey, President/CEO, Waterways Council, Inc. (WCI) “This important project in Illinois has a 7.4 to 1 cost-benefit ratio as determined by the Corps of Engineers’ Chief’s Report approved by Congress, and is estimated to return more than $410 million annually in transportation cost savings and benefits when it is completed,” he continued.