Fed Begins Work on Latest Two-Year Water Authorization Bill

February 16, 2016

An article in the current  AASHTO Journal says that Congress is seeking to put waterways legislation on a two-year cycle to make policy changes and approve new projects that are far enough in the planning pipeline. However, more needs to be done to ensure consistent funding at needed levels.

The Senate Environment and Public Works held a hearing February 10 on "The Importance of Enacting a New Water Resources Development Act." (webcast available here) House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee members held an informal roundtable discussion and educational session for members and industry representatives a week earlier.

While the 2014 Water Resources Reform and Development Act included new streamlining procedures to get projects through the planning, permitting and construction phases, Norma Jean Mattei, president-elect of the American Society of Civil Engineers, said that a two-year cycle for such legislation "provides certainty to project sponsors, keeps the price tag of the legislation manageable and can cut down on the backlog." Mattei also told the EPW hearing that between now and 2020 the nation's ports and inland waterways will need about $30 billion in investments but planned spending is only $14 billion. Worse, beyond that $16 billion investment gap, Mattei said, economic costs attributable to delays just on rivers were $33 billion in 2020, and are projected to balloon to $49 billion by 2020.

Robert Portiss, director for Tulsa's Port of Catoosa, told members the nation's waterways remain a viable source of transportation which depends on Congress adhering to a consistent authorization process for system improvements and to build on reforms in the 2014 law.

Mattei's excellent testimony and presentation before the Senate committee (recommended reading available here) discusses 'the impact of under-investing in our nation's ports and inland waterways.'

Source: AASHTO Journal