The Water Resources Development Act of 2005 should be brought to a vote on the Senate floor before the end of the current session, urges the American Soybean Association.
Ports and waterways contribute $718 billion to the nation's gross domestic product. The U.S. House of Representative overwhelmingly passed WRDA in July by a vote of 406-14. The Senate bill is S. 728.
ASA president Bob Metz, a soybean producer from West Brown Valley, S.D., says the legislation contains authorizations for ports, locks and dams, and flood control projects as well as a number of crucial project modifications. Congress last passed a WRDA five years ago.
"The bill positions the Corps of Engineers to meet contemporary water resources needs with fully modern tools, including streamlined studies, peer review that adds value to planning and science-based mitigation," Metz says. "It also codifies improvements the Corps has and is making to ensure confidence in its studies and recommendations."
The ASA sent letters to Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., from the National Waterways Alliance. pointing out that the legislation represents a bi-partisan compromise that is the best hope of ending the recent WRDA stalemate while restoring a predictable biennial WRDA cycle.
In light of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, this WRDA would ensure that the Corps undertakes a risk-analysis approach to water resources planning, including considering the potential for loss of life in flood areas, the ASA says. It also allows for the multi-benefits of projects to be identified, thereby allowing congressional leaders to make more informed judgments.
"Ports are our gateways, allowing us to be competitive, and their channels must be enhanced and maintained to accommodate the new generations of ships sailing to our shores," Metz says. "The U.S. maritime transportation system moves more than 60% of the nation's grain exports and 95% of the nation's imports. Over 50% of our locks and dams have aged beyond their life cycle and many are crumbling."
The U.S. flood damage reduction program saves lives and prevents almost $8 in damages for each dollar spent. In the lower Mississippi Valley, flood control projects return more than $24 per dollar spent in property damages saved. Corps hydropower facilities supply 24% of the hydropower generated in the U.S. Shore protection projects provide safety from hurricanes and other storm events for transportation, petroleum and agriculture infrastructure around coastal waterways and deltas, as well as recreational benefits, returning $4 in benefits for each dollar invested. Projects for water supply, irrigation, recreation and wildlife habitat provide innumerable benefits. Investing in water resources sustains economic growth and the American worker, directly eases growing congestion on U.S. roads and railroads, and provides a better quality of life.
Recently, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation's waterways a "D-minus" (their lowest grade) because of their steadily deteriorating condition and reliability. The U.S. simply cannot afford for this trend to continue. WRDA, as reported, will finally set the nation back on the track of reversing the trend to realize substantial returns on investment in water resources.