This exceptional year has brought us COVID-19, economic turmoil and partisan discord culminating in a bitter and divided high-turnout election that is still being disputed, not to mention drought and a derecho storm in the Midwest that flattened crops and a steady beat of storms in the Gulf Coast. Behind the noise, most of us have quietly gone about observing our precautions and making sure our loved ones and colleagues remain safe. Our industry has kept cargoes moving, supporting the economy and livelihoods of millions of workers and their families.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could bring 2020 to an end on an up note? At this writing, according to sources in Washington, D.C., the process of getting the Water Resources Development Act to the floor of Congress is underway. The House has already passed its version, and so has a Senate committee. All that remains is a final Senate vote, and then a conference committee ironing out the differences between the House and Senate versions to make it to the floor of each house for a vote.
According to industry sources, the situation is fluid. Our industry advocates have patiently laid the groundwork and made their arguments; we are now in the final stretches. Congress has COVID-19 relief and other important matters on the agenda. But there appears to be a lot of bipartisan support, our sources say, for passing some kind of waterways bill in the lame duck session.
A WRDA bill could make it to the floor for a vote sometime in the week beginning December 7. At this writing we don’t know whether a WRDA will be passed on its own, or as part of a bigger omnibus bill. We don’t know whether it will include the 75/25 cost share for lock and dam projects our industry pushed for, or a more modest 65/35 cost share. And we don’t know whether that cost-share will be made permanent or given a 10-year sunset. All that is being worked out in negotiations. While some of these options are more desirable for our industry than others, any one of them should be considered a win.
So it’s a great time between now and then to again contact your representative in Congress and urge him or her to act on this important legislation. Bringing together both parties on a bill to effectively fund waterways infrastructure would be a great way to end a dramatic year, and to ring in what we hope will be a productive new year of cooperation in Congress.