The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Thursday unanimously approved the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013, authorizing waterways infrastructure changes that could provide benefits to U.S. farmers and grain shippers.
Under the bill, Congress authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to maintain waterways infrastructure, ensure proper navigation and commerce, address flood risk management, and carry out environmental restoration efforts.
Historically, Congress has passed waterways legislation every two years, but no bill has been signed into law since 2007. While the bill now moves to the full House of Representatives for approval, the Senate in May passed its own version with a vote of 83-14.
Components of the bill would realign waterway improvement funds, result in better infrastructure for grain shipping, groups say
Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., said in a statement following the passage that the bill is the most policy- and reform-focused legislation of its kind in the last two decades.
"WRRDA is about jobs and improving America's competitiveness," he said. "A strong water transportation network is critical to keeping pace with other nations that are improving their own infrastructure networks and gaining ground in an increasingly competitive global marketplace."
In addition to its most basic function of authorizing Corps projects, the bill also sets deadlines on the time and cost of studies to consider waterways projects and allows public-private partnerships to ensure waterways infrastructure.
Danny Murphy, President of the American Soybean Association, said his organization supports the bill.
"Soybean farmers rely on a reliable network of waterways, locks, dams and ports to move our products from farm to market," Murphy said. "This bill and its companion in the Senate would begin to the process of ... improving our vital waterways infrastructure."