Last night, the House passed H.R. 5303, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) by a vote of 399-25. The bill included provisions for Flint, MI that were tying up the Senate’s passage of a continuing resolution to fund the U.S. government until after the elections.
The House bill authorizes Army Corps of Engineers' work on locks and dams, dredging and other water resources projects and includes approved Chief's Reports for Calcasieu Lock modifications in Louisiana, deepening of Brazos Island Harbor in Texas, and the Upper Ohio Study that allows the Emsworth, Dashields and Montgomery (EDM) locks project near Pittsburgh to move forward.
Many thanks to Congressman Rodney Davis for his leadership and “out of the box” thinking on this bill. Congressman Davis successfully offered an amendment to study alternative models to manage to Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF). This study will examine the costs and benefits of shifting the management of IWTF’s project schedule and expenditures to a not-for-profit or government corporation.
The Senate passed its version of WRDA on September 15th. Neither bill has a provision that could have allowed for the collection of tolls or lockage fees on waterways through a Public-Private Partnership (P3). This is a win for corn farmers who already supported an increase in the barge user fee to increase funds to build locks and dams.
IL Corn is supportive of alternative funding mechanisms that will not drive tonnage away from the river and have concerns that additional fees will do exactly that.
The next step for WRDA 2016 is a conference of the two bills, with a potential final bill ready to be signed by the President in a lame duck session.
Congress has wrapped up their business for the week by funding the Government through December 9th and isn’t scheduled to be back in Washington until Monday, November 14th.