Washington Waves
Washington Waves

House Bill Would Slash DOT Grant Programs

Washington, D.C.—Funding for Department of Transportation (DOT) grant programs would be cut by 59 percent or $6.6 billion in fiscal year 2024 under a bill reported out of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.

Advanced by a voice vote, the bill headed to a vote by the full committee.

Its proposed cuts would leave $4.619 billion for DOT’s discretionary grant programs, according to the House committee.

In other key takeaways, the bill would provide:

• A discretionary total of $21.574 billion to DOT, which is $7.161 billion below the current enacted level.

• No additional funds for the RAISE (Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity) or Mega grant programs, which the committee said received $2.5 billion in advance appropriations for fiscal year 2024 through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

• $753 million for the Maritime Administration, which is $226.9 million below the amount requested by the Biden administration.

• $5.3 million to launch a nationwide dashboard for shippers and carriers to track real-time supply chain movements and better respond to bottlenecks.

• $69.7 million to fund 22 port infrastructure projects requested by 16 House members.

• $1.212 billion for 539 highway infrastructure projects requested by 234 House members; Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said they represent roughly half of all the projects in the 12 annual appropriations bills.

Per Cole’s request and custom, members of the subcommittee reserved amendments for the full committee.

“The bill meets the challenge before us to reduce spending and get our debt under control,” Cole said. “We prioritize transportation safety—on our railways, roads and airways.”

Democrats, however, warned the bill threatens the safety and reliability of roads and railways. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), ranking member of the full committee, called the transportation cuts inexcusable, citing devastating train crashes and collapsing roads and bridges.

Defense Authorization Act

After delaying controversial amendments on hot-button issues such as abortion, the House began debate on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2024. Still, even with that unusual approach, the chamber voted 217 to 207 to allow the debate.

Democrats blamed a small number of ultra-conservative Republicans for pushing the contentious amendments. Republican leaders delayed those amendments by putting them in the second batch, which is expected to be considered at some point.

Leaders in the Senate, which so far has taken a much more traditional path on its version of the NDAA, expressed hope they could get it through their chamber before the upcoming August break.

Clean Water Protections

Leading Democrats on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee urged key agencies to chart a path forward on restoring clean water protections they say were damaged by a recent Supreme Court case.

“The Sackett decision has the potential to eliminate over 50 years of progress by federal, state and local governments, as well as average citizens, in improving water quality virtually overnight,” Reps. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) and Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) stated in a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Larsen and Napolitano also asked the agencies to quantify increased flooding risks, threats to clean drinking water and possible setbacks to critical efforts such as restoration of the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, Florida Everglades, Puget Sound, San Francisco Bay and Long Island Sound.

Larsen serves as the committee’s ranking member while Napolitano is the ranking member of its Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.

The EPA recently announced it was developing a new rule consistent with the Sackett decision.

“The agencies remain steadfast in our commitment to implementing the Clean Water Act in a manner that protects people and protects water quality,” EPA stated when asked for a comment on the two House members’ letter. “The agencies are committed to following the science and following the law as we implement the Clean Water Act and are developing a rule to amend the final “Revised Definition of Waters of the United States” rule.”

EPA again said it intends to issue the final rule by September 1.

Minnesota Ports

Key officials of two Minnesota farm organizations emphasized the state’s ports and trade at a field hearing held in the state by the House Ways and Means Committee.

Carolyn Olson, vice president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation, told the committee her organization hopes to see growth in the use of the Duluth Port for agricultural products and believes that utilizing the world’s largest freshwater port will lead to continued opportunities for the transportation of commodities to other countries.

“Additionally, maintaining the Mississippi River system is vital for Minnesota and the nation, as it is a powerful corridor for the movement of goods,” Olson said.

Gary Wertish, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union, promoted a national trade policy that benefits family farmers and builds supply chain resilience. He expressed support for trade that is fair and stable, builds on farmers’ strengths, contributes to resilience at home and supplements strong, competitive domestic markets.

Yazoo Basin Project

The Vicksburg Engineer District announced its intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the authorized Yazoo Basin, Yazoo Backwater, Mississippi, Project.

According to the Corps, the EIS will analyze a new water management solution for the project and examine measures to avoid, minimize and mitigate environmental impacts associated with the proposed action, which is the preferred alternative.

Comments must be submitted by August 7. They can be submitted by email at YazooBackwater@usace.army.mil or by mail to Mike Renacker, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Vicksburg District, ATTN: CEMVK–PPMD, 4155 E. Clay St., Room 248, Vicksburg, MS 39183.

For additional information, contact Stacey Jensen at 703-695-6791 or YazooBackwater@usace.army.mil.