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Legislators push water infrastructure bill

Keywords: Tags  Water Resources Reform and Development Act, Debra Colbert, Waterways Council, House of Representatives, U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Nick Rahall II, Bob Gibbs, Bill Shuster Tim Bishop

NEW YORK — Legislation that proponents say will be a boon for water and port infrastructure, accelerating projects and making it easier to transport commodities, was introduced Sept. 12 in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The Water Resources Reform and Development Act would authorize investments in U.S. ports and waterways, including development and maintenance projects, targeted flood protection and environmental restoration, as well as set deadlines on the review period for projects, according to the House committee.

"This bill is about jobs," Rep. Nick Rahall II (D., W.Va.) said. "It boosts our ports, strengthens our maritime economy and allows commodities to move more efficiently along our inland waterways, saving time and money."

Rep. Bob Gibbs (R., Ohio) said the bill would fix the review process for water infrastructure projects, which often takes 10 to 15 years, slowing waterway improvements and congesting the nation’s transportation arteries.

"You can’t move steel to markets if you don’t have properly dredged ports and channels," Waterways Council senior vice president Debra Colbert told AMM. "They need regular maintenance. If we don’t have that, that’s a problem."

The bill was sponsored by Gibbs and Rahall as well as Rep. Bill Shuster (R., Pa.) and Rep. Tim Bishop (D., N.Y.). The Senate’s version of the bill was approved May 15 by a vote of 83 to 14 (, May 16).

The House bill does not include provisions to increase the Inland Waterways Trust Fund fee, a 20-cent-per-gallon fee on fuel for inland transport operations that pays for water infrastructure projects, Colbert said. The Waterways Council wanted a fee increase included in the bill.

"All steel producers and agriculture are stakeholders who are using and relying on waterways system. We want to see 20 cents increased to 26 cents per gallon," Colbert said. "Waterways are critically important, yet we continue to underinvest and take it for granted."

The bill is expected to move to the House floor in October, Colbert said.

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