Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Water Resources Development Act Sent To President’s Desk

Washington, D.C.—The Senate overwhelmingly voted to give final congressional approval to the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2022 as part of a must-pass annual defense bill.

By a vote of 83 to 11, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was sent to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

H.R.7776 also included reauthorization language for the Coast Guard and the Maritime Administration (MarAd).

WRDA supporters in and out of Congress celebrated the victory for the biennial measure, the fifth in a row.

Major wins singled out by The American Waterways Operators included language significantly tightening the Jones Act waiver process, such as beefing up a president’s role, permanently changing the cost share for inland waterways infrastructure projects to 65 percent general treasury and 35 percent Inland Waterways Trust Fund and establishing a regional dredging pilot program to allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to respond quickly to changing river conditions.

Waterways Council Inc. cited language providing more flexibility to manage the Houston Ship barge lanes.

On a 47-47 vote, the Senate rejected an amendment on permitting reform by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) 

According to the Senate Commerce Committee, MarAd provisions authorize $750 million for the Port Infrastructure Development Program; $318 million for the Maritime Security Program; $30 million for the Small Shipyard Grant Program; $53.7 million for the state maritime academies; and $15 million for the Marine Highways Program.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee cited Coast Guard provisions for a 12th National Security Cutter, six Fast Response Cutters and a commercially available icebreaker.

Omnibus Bill

Racing against the clock and a major storm, the Senate easily approved a procedural motion to proceed to a massive bipartisan $1.7 trillion omnibus bill that provides fiscal year 2023 funding through September 30.

With support from 21 Republicans, the 70-25 vote clearly signaled H.R. 2617, the 4,155-page legislative vehicle for the omnibus, should have a smooth ride out of the Senate to the House.

Under a stopgap measure both chambers approved last week, funding for federal agencies was scheduled to expire Friday.

The Biden administration urged swift passage of the legislation.

Covering all 12 of the annual spending bills, the package includes $8.66 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ civil works program, and for the second year in a row it meets the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund target, providing $2.318 billion to maintain and modernize the nation’s waterways.

“The annual net economic benefit generated by the Corps’ civil works mission is estimated to be $89 billion, which equates to a return of about $12 for every dollar expended,” the bill summary stated.

The summary put the amount provided to improve the nation’s water infrastructure at $10.24 billion.

“Funding for the Corps will be used to build projects that reduce the risk of flood and storm damage, improve the efficiency of our ports, harbors and inland waterways and restore aquatic environments,” the summary reported.

The National Waterways Conference highlighted the provision requiring a work plan from the Corps no later than 60 days after enactment of bill.

For investigations, the bill provides $172.5 million; construction, $1.8 billion, which includes $72.3 million for the continuing authorities program; operation and maintenance, nearly $5.1 billion, which includes additional funding to the National Levee Flood Inventory; and Mississippi River and Tributaries, $370 million.

The package also includes $226 million to stop invasive carp from reaching the Great Lakes.

RAISE Grants

The Department of Transportation (DOT) published a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for $1.5 billion in grant funding through the popular Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) discretionary grant program for 2023.

RAISE helps communities around the country carry out projects with significant local or regional impact.

Eligibility requirements under RAISE allow project sponsors to obtain funding for projects that are harder to support through other grant programs.

“After decades of underinvestment in America’s infrastructure, we are supporting projects that help people and goods get where they need to go more safely, efficiently and affordably,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said.

The deadline for applications is 11:59 p.m. EST on February 28, and DOT said selections will be announced no later than June 28.

Additional information on the NOFO can be found at www.transportation.gov.

Seaway Corporation Meetings

The Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (GLS) Advisory Board announced the schedule for public meetings via conference calls in 2023.

All meetings are set to begin at 2 p.m. Eastern on January 24, May 2, July 18 and November 14.

Requests to attend, receive accommodations for disabilities and submit a written copy of remarks for those wishing to speak must be received five days before each meeting.

The conference calls will take place at the GLS’s headquarters, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, Suite W62–300,Washington, D.C. 20590.

For additional information, contact Kevin O’Malley at 202-366-0091.