By Dean Franks, vice president of congressional affairs, ARTBA

Senators voted 95-3 Sept. 15 to reauthorize the federal port and water infrastructure programs and tee up a number of new projects in multiple states. The bill, S. 2848, authorizes $13.3 billion in overall funding for water infrastructure, including nearly $8 billion to the U.S Army Corps of Engineers for lock, dam, port and waterway construction projects.

ARTBA President and CEO Pete Ruane urged all senators to support the bill in a September 13 letter.

With passage in the Senate, attention now turns to the House of Representatives. Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) told reporters Sept. 14 the chamber could take up its own water infrastructure bill as early as next week. The T&I Committee passed water resources legislation, H.R. 5303, May 25, but the measure has not progressed in the subsequent months.

Representatives Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) and Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) championed a Sept. 13 letter signed by 143 bipartisan House members urging GOP leaders to schedule House floor action on H.R. 5303 before Sept. 30.  ARTBA has worked with other stakeholder groups over the past several months to build support for the Sanford-Frankel letter.  See if your representative signed the letter.

Enacting a water resources development act in 2016 would return Congress to approving such measures every two years—a practice that lapsed from 2007 to 2014.  Timely water resource bills are important due to the typical duration of Corps’ projects and to ensure newly approved projects can move forward. As always, projects authorized in this legislation are subject to the annual appropriations process where actual spending is permitted.

ARTBA lobbyists will continue to advocate, specifically to members of the House, the importance of this legislation and the improvements the bill potentially allows to be made to our nation’s water transportation systems, until a new law is signed by the president this year.