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Water Resources Bill passed in House
Kirill Abbakumov   on Wednesday, June 27, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

On June 11, 2018, the House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed the Water Resources Development Act (H.R. 8) in a 408 to 2 vote. The bill reauthorizes the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which includes federal navigation, flood-control, storm damage projects, and feasibility studies across the United States. Once enacted into law, WRDA provisions must be funded through the annual appropriations process.

The bill did not include a provision on the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) that had been initially included. The provision would have allowed the full use of HMTF for harbor maintenance purposes without the need of further congressional appropriations by FY 2029. The HMTF provision was removed from the bill after the Congressional Budget Office reported it would increase annual deficits by more than $5 billion over 10-years following its 2029 enactment date. The HMTF is a tax levied against importers and domestic shippers using ports and harbors in coastal and Great Lakes areas. Even though the HMTF has a large surplus, only a portion of its total is appropriated by Congress every year for operations and maintenance in American harbors.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects authorized in WRDA drive investment in navigation, flood protection and ecosystem restoration in communities. Local governments own and manage much of this infrastructure, including ports and harbors, inland waterways, levees, and damns that protect public health and safety and natural resources. WRDA is essential to helping communities build, maintain, and improve this critical infrastructure, while growing our national and local economies.

The Senate has been working on its WRDA bill titled America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (S. 2800). Like the House bill, the Senate version includes provisions that will help communities improve America’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure and improve stormwater management and does not include HMTF. The Senate bill advanced out of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on May 22. Senate leaders indicated that the chamber will likely bring up the bill within the next several weeks.

WRDA is historically passed every two years. However, in the past decade, it has only been enacted three times, in 2007, 2014, and 2016. WRDA currently has a backlog of nearly $100 billion worth of projects that have been authorized but have not received appropriations. If passed by Congress, the current WRDA legislation would add to the list of projects awaiting Congressional appropriations.