House Passes WRDA Bill

Water Infrastructure Among Last Bills of Year Voted on in Congress

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to upgrade water infrastructure and authorize both port dredging and inland waterway improvements. (DTN file photo by Chris Clayton)

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- In one of its final acts of 2016, the House of Representatives passed a water infrastructure resources bill projected to further upgrade ports, rivers and provide more flood protection in parts of the country.

The House passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act by a vote of 360 to 61. Key parts of the bill include a two-year update of the Water Resources Development Act. The bill adds nearly 30 new construction projects around the country at a cost of around $12 billion, according to the congressional newspaper, The Hill.

"An efficient transportation network is what makes our economy run, and ensuring America's water infrastructure is brought into the 21st century will grow the economy, strengthen our competitiveness, and create jobs," said Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

After major battles throughout the year, the bill also authorizes $170 million to deal with the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, over lead contamination.

The Senate is expected to pass the bill as early as Friday, though concerns over a California drought provision that also could affect fisheries in Oregon and other areas could affect the bill. The bill would expedite water reservoir projects and also allow for more flexibility in water management in California. Still, the provision is controversial among California environmental groups.

Further, some Southern senators are upset over language in the bill that could affect negotiations over a long-standing water dispute involving Florida, Georgia and Alabama. Such opposition could delay a vote until Saturday.

The Soybean Transportation Coalition praised the House vote, noting, "American farmers depend on a well-maintained system of locks and dams and ports to compete effectively in the international marketplace. We are hopeful that the Senate will soon pass the bill and President (Barack) Obama will sign it into law before the end of the calendar year."

Before the full House debated and voted on the House bill, however, Democrats lost a vote in the House Rules Committee on Wednesday over "buy American" language for steel on those water projects. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., pushed to have the language stripped from the bill. The language had been included in the Senate version of the bill.

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Chris Clayton