Shuster prioritises water infra reform

The US Transportation and Infrastructure chief will ready a water resources reform bill for the House of Representatives to consider in October.

Bill Shuster, the chairman of the House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, will take up the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) in September, which will cut red tape, speed up project delivery, and remove hurdles to state and private sector funding in order to strengthen the country’s water transportation networks.

“WRRDA will be the most policy and reform-focused legislation of its kind in the last two decades,” the Republican Representative from Pennsylvania told the country’s governors who convened in Milwaukee last week for their summer meeting.

Legislation dedicated to water resources infrastructure is long overdue. “Congress used to consider such bills to authorise the US Army Corps of Engineers studies and construction activities every two years, but has not approved one since 2007,” he said.

Part of the problem is the time it takes the Corps of Engineers to complete a study. What used to take three to five years, now takes 10-15, according to Shuster.

Another obstacle that stands in the way of upgrading the country’s water infrastructure is current law which limits the ability of states and other non-federal entities of using their own resources to move forward with authorised federal studies and projects.

“WRRDA will break down these barriers, unlocking the opportunity for increased non-federal investment and ensuring that state, local, and private sector resources are no longer forced to sit on the sidelines while America’s competitiveness slips away,” he said.

Shuster also noted the importance of water transportation infrastructure in terms of the economy and job growth, while underlining the need to invest in the country’s ports, dams and other waterways as they are becoming “more obsolete every day.”

WRRDA is the result of numerous roundtables, forums, and hearings held by the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, chaired by Bob Gibbs, a Republican from Ohio.