The Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act Wednesday by a voice vote after being held up for months because of controversial amendments. One amendment passed, although producers groups are hopeful the issue can be addressed in conference committee.
The legislation would authorize a 15-year project that includes the construction of seven 1,200-foot locks on the upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers. The legislation will also provide for the creation of a major ecosystem restoration program.
WRDA also includes a number of reforms to improve the environment. The bill gives the Army Corps of Engineers the authority to do island building, construction of fish passage, floodplain restoration, water level management, backwater restoration, side channel restoration, wing dam and dike restoration, island and shoreline protection, topographical diversity rehabilitation, use of dredge material for environmental purposes, tributary restoration, and land and land easement acquisition.
Corps reform amendments were at the center of debate and focused on how water resource projects are prioritized and how they are independently reviewed. The Senate passed one amendment that the National Corn Growers Association opposed, the McCain/Feingold amendment dealing with Corps approval process. Tumbleson says NCGA will seek changes to the amendment in the conference committee process.
Different versions of WRDA exist in each chamber and will now head to a conference committee to settle the differences. "We look forward to working with House and Senate conferees as they work to finalize the two versions of this necessary infrastructure legislation," adds Tumbleson. "We are optimistic we will see the final passage of the bill before year's end."
A statement from Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., reiterated that the waterway improvements continue to help U.S. farmers stay competitive. "Without a competitive transportation system, the promise of expanded trade and commercial growth is empty, job opportunities are lost, and we will be unprepared for the global challenges of this new century," he says.