By Dean Franks, vice president of congressional affairs, ARTBA
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously passed May 25 the “Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016.” The legislation, H.R. 5303, would authorize $5 billion for 28 water infrastructure projects the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has deemed ready to move forward. The work includes lock, dam, port, levee and inland waterway projects.
House action comes less than a month after the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed similar water legislation April 28. While many provisions in the two bills are similar in nature, the Senate measure also included funding to assist cities like Flint, Michigan that have been affected by underground clean and drinking water system failures. Democrats on the T&I Committee vowed to raise the issue again when the bill reaches the House floor after offering and then withdrawing amendments as part of the committee action on the legislation.
While next steps in both the House and Senate are unclear as the election year calendar gets shorter and shorter, a water infrastructure bill is considered one of the few, bipartisan pieces of legislation that could get done before voters head to the ballot box in November. Regardless of whether or not a deal can be reached this Congress, it is important to remember that all water resources project spending is proved through the yearly congressional appropriations process.