Water development law passes Senate

2016-09-22T10:44:00Z Water development law passes SenateBy Bill Tiedje, Illinois Farmer Today Illinois Farmer Today
September 22, 2016 10:44 am  • 

The Water Resources Development Act of 2016 passed the Senate Sept. 15 by a vote of 95 to 3.

The American Soybean Association voiced their support for the enactment of the two-year WRDA reauthorization bill, noting reforms and achievements of the WRDA bill enacted in 2014.

“Of most interest to soybean farmers are the authorizations provided for inland waterways navigation and harbor deepening projects. The authorizations are still subject to annual appropriations to allow the funds to be executed and implemented by the Corps of Engineers,” the ASA said in a news release.

Projects for the 2016 WRDA include annual authorization of $25 million for dredging activities on shallow draft ports located on the inland Mississippi River; a feasibility study regarding deepening the channel approaches on the Mississippi River Ship Channel, from the U.S. Gulf to Baton Rouge, La.; and increased funding for debris removal on rivers for commercial and recreation purposes.

Other aspects of the legislation include funding to address drinking water contamination in Flint, Mich. Funding is also authorized for restoration of U.S. water bodies and ecosystems.

According to the ASA, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee passed their own version of bill in May and Committee Chair Bill Shuster has indicated his hope to get their version of the WRDA bill (HR 5303) on the House floor next week.

Mike Steenhoek, executive director of Soy Transportation Coalition, said inland waterway stakeholders have been holding out hope that “in the midst of a very acrimonious and dysfunctional atmosphere in Washington D.C.,” a handful of helpful things could be done this year — passage of WRDA being one of them.

Steenhoek said the group was pleased to see WRDA pass by such an overwhelming, bipartisan margin and expressed hope the House would act quickly as well.

He said getting the WRDA back on a two-year renewal time frame is helpful given the momentum needed to keep focus on the inland waterway system.

“Barge transport is out of sight, therefore it’s out of mind,” Steenhoek said.

Without visiting the rivers, it’s easy for policymakers to develop an ignorance of the needs of the inland waterway system, he said.

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