Congress Passes Waterways Bills

This week the House and Senate acted on bills that address annual funding of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers waterways functions and the biannual reauthorization of the inland waterways programs.  These are bills supported by the American Soybean Association (ASA), to continue the progress toward updating our inland waterways infrastructure that is vital to the movement of soybeans and agricultural inputs.

An agreement was reached between House and Senate leadership and committee leaders on a Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, that will encompass reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) as well as programs related to drinking water infrastructure, water storage in the west, the toxic algae bloom impacting Florida, and the Land & Water Conservation Fund.

The measure passed the House on a voice vote and is expected to be passed by the Senate and signed into law by the President before the end of the month. The WRDA component is a relatively straight-forward reauthorization without significant programmatic changes or new or additional funding sources. It continues the trend for Congress to return to regular order by passing a WRDA reauthorization every two years. Prior to the 2014 WRDA, Congress had gone seven years without passing a WRDA reauthorization bill. The Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 also maintains and extends process reforms enacted under the 2014 WRDA that streamline the regulatory approval process and eliminate barriers that delay projects.

The House and Senate also passed a “minibus” package with three of the annual appropriations bills for Fiscal year 2019, including the Energy & Water Appropriations bill that funds the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers inland waterways programs. The U.S. Senate passed the conference report package Wednesday evening by a vote of 92-5 and the House passed it Thursday by a vote of 377-20.

The bill provides increased funding for the Inland Waterways Trust Fund and for the USACE Operations & Maintenance accounts. This represents the fourth consecutive year of funding increases.

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