Water reform bill sails through House

The bipartisan bill, aimed at reforming water resources legislation that has not changed since 2007, was overwhelmingly approved by the House of Representatives.

The Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2013, which has been described as the “most policy- and reform-focused legislation of its kind in the last two decades,” was approved 417-3 by the US House of Representatives.

The bill, HR 3080, reduces bureaucracy, removes hurdles to state and private sector funding and calls for the creation of a water infrastructure public-private partnership (PPP; P3) programme. It also provides clear direction to the US Army Corps of Engineers in carrying out its mission in relation to the country’s waterways infrastructure, according to Bill Shuster, chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and the lawmaker who introduced the bill.

“This bill contains no earmarks, […], streamlines the infrastructure review process, and deauthorises $12 billion of outdated projects in order to more than fully offset new authorised Corps activities,” the Pennsylvania Republican said in a statement last Wednesday.

Historically, Congress has passed such legislation every two years, but no bill has been signed into law since 2007, making this bill “long overdue.”

Aside from improving the country’s water transport infrastructure, the bill would also contribute to job creation and improving the country’s competitiveness.

“To run a 21st century economy, we need a 21st century infrastructure, and strategic investments in America’s ageing harbours and inland waterways will spur job creation and lay the foundation for sustained economic growth,” said Tim Bishop, Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee ranking member.

Shuster had promised to deliver such a bill in August and brought it to the House for consideration last month.

WRRDA was drafted following numerous roundtables, forums, and hearings held by the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, chaired by Bob Gibbs, a Republican from Ohio.

It will have to pass through the Senate before it can be signed into law.