Senate Committee Approves Record Infrastructure Funding

first_imgBoth the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee marked up and passed their 2018 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bills this week–with the Senate committee sending its $43.77 billion bill, including the largest ever funding level for Corps of Engineers, to the full chamber by a 30-1 vote.Both the House and Senate bills were reported out of committee with bipartisan support. WRDA provides for improvements to the nation’s ports, inland waterways, locks, dams, flood protection, ecosystem restoration and other water resource infrastructure.The House and Senate bills can be generally characterized as straightforward reauthorization bills with no significant new programs, policies or funding. There are policy provisions that will continue to move forward with efforts to streamline the project process for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.Changes supported by the American Soybean Association (ASA) and enacted in the 2014 and 2016 WRDA bills, have effectively moved up the timeframe for completion of the long-standing backlog of inland waterways projects, including the locks and dams on the Upper Mississippi, Illinois River and Ohio River systems.Of specific interest to ASA, the 2018 House WRDA bill directs the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate the current organizational structure of the Corps’ Civil Works function and to identify impediments to efficient project delivery, and then provide recommendations to Congress.The House bill would also move the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) off-budget to allow for full-use of HMTF funds to be used solely for harbor maintenance purposes. This is currently being done gradually through the appropriations process based on an agreement reached in the 2014 WRDA bill, and the House 2018 WRDA bill would cement the agreement into law.The action on the WRDA bills follows recent movement on the FY19 Energy & Water Appropriations bill. The House Appropriations Committee last week passed the FY2019 Energy & Water Appropriations bill with significant increases for waterways infrastructure.The Energy & Water Appropriations bill provides annual funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, including the Inland Waterways programs that are priorities for ASA.The House committee approved bill provides overall funding for the Corps of Engineers at $7.3 billion, an increase of $451 million above the FY2018 enacted level. The bill calls for full-use of estimated annual revenues from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) and includes $1.6 billion in funding for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF).The Corps’ Operations & Maintenance (O&M) account received a record-level of $3.8 billion, which is $200 million more than the FY18 enacted level.The next step for the bill is consideration by the full House, which has not yet been scheduled.  The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to mark-up its Energy & Water bill on Thursday, May 24.last_img read more

Read More →