New water-resources legislation, including funds to help build Army Corps of Engineers projects, continues to advance on Capitol Hill, as lawmakers seek to continue recent history of enacting such legislation every two years.
The latest step forward is House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leaders’ bipartisan bill, introduced on May 18, which authorizes $2.4 billion in federal funds for six new Corps water projects. [View bill text here.]
More projects are expected to be added to the measure as the Corps finishes another batch of Chief of Engineers reports recommending that they be authorized.
Authorizations are subject to annual congressional appropriations.
The rollout of the House bill, the 2018 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), comes 10 days after Senate Environment and Public Works Committee leaders introduced their version of the legislation.
The Senate committee has slated a vote on its bill, the America’s Water Infrastructure Act, on May 23.
The House panel has scheduled a vote on its WRDA the following day.
Mike Strachn, a senior adviser with water resources consulting firm Dawson & Associates, says, “Everything bodes well for enactment this year.”
Strachn notes that factors in the bills’ favor include bipartisan backing by key leaders of the committees, water infrastructure measures’ traditionally strong congressional support and their alignment with the current “dialogue” in Washington about infrastructure.
John Doyle, special counsel with law and lobbying firm Jones Walker LLP, says odds that a water bill will become law this year are better than 50-50. He says that approval is more likely to come in an expected lame duck session than before the November elections.
Doyle predicts that a House floor vote will take place in June. A Senate vote would come later.
Strachn, a former Corps official and House transportation committee aide, says the Senate version is much broader in scope than the House’s. Bestides its project authorizations and policy items, the Senate proposal also includes provisions dealing with Environmental Protection Agency water programs.
Doyle, a former top Army civil works official and House transportation panel staffer, says the Senate and House Corps-related sections are similar. Both authorize the same six Corps projects, for example.
He says that one big difference, however, is the House bill’s language calling for spending all of the revenue that flows into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.
That requirement wouldn’t require action by appropriations committees. It also wouldn’t take effect until 2029.
Doyle cautions, “That idea has been tried and found wanting in at least one previous WRDA.”
The House bill’s sponsor, transportation committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said in a statement, “WRDA works because it improves critical water resources infrastructure, strengthens the economy, and protects our communities.”