After months of discussion between House and Senate conferees, an agreement on a new water-resources bill appeared to be near at ENR press time. The lead House negotiator, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), on April 29 said, "We are inches away from crossing the goal line on a Water Resources Reform and Development Act."

The bill would authorize new Army Corps of Engineers' civil-works projects and was expected to include Corps policy changes in areas such as project reviews. Addressing the American Council of Engineering Companies annual convention, Shuster said one issue remained to be resolved but added that the issue could be worked out soon. He said he hoped the final compromise bill would be on the House and Senate floors during the week of May 4. In a brief interview with ENR, Shuster declined to identify the remaining issue.

The conference agreement would preserve Congress' ability to authorize new Corps projects, Shuster believes, though he notes that bans on earmarks are still in place.

The Senate-passed bill's cost is $12.2 billion; the House-approved version weighs in at $8.2 billion. Another difference between the bills is that the Senate measure includes a new federal loan program for Corps and Environmental Protection Agency water projects, while the House bill does not.