The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved the conference report of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act with a 91-7 vote, following the House's 412-4 vote earlier this week.
The bill is intended to improve inland waterway infrastructure and authorize Army Corps of Engineers enhancement projects.
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"The Senate's passage of the WRRDA conference report represents another important step toward improving and creating a more workable framework for increased investment in our waterways infrastructure," American Soybean Association President Ray Gaesser commented Thursday.
"Our waterways system helps take our soybeans from major growing regions to domestic processors and major exporting terminals, then on to valuable trading partners around the world."
Included in the conference report, ASA says, are provisions that will free up significant funding within the Inland Waterways Trust Fund for additional waterways infrastructure projects; increase the level of Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund dollars that will be spent on port maintenance and dredging; streamline the Army Corps of Engineers' project review process; increase Corps flexibility to maintain navigation during low water events; and promote the use of alternative financing and public-private partnerships to fund waterways infrastructure.
The National Grain and Feed Association also suppported the bill, calling it a "major milestone" as no waterways bill has been passed since 2007.
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"Enactment of this legislation provides the opportunity to authorize much-needed projects to renovate our nation's aging inland waterway locks and dams," NGFA President Randy Gordon said. He pointed out that roughly 60% of U.S. grains and oilseed exports traverse the Upper Mississippi and Illinois River System to export ports annually.
Finally, the bill also includes language supported by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association that addresses EPA’s Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure regulations, providing an exemption for farmers who have aboveground on-farm storage facilities of 6,000 gallons or fewer.
Click here to read full text of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014.