Congressman Bill Owens voted in favor of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 (WRRDA), which passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 417-3. The bill is supported by a coalition of businesses and labor groups and will directly benefit New York water infrastructure. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the state’s waterways and ports support 152,025 New York jobs and directly contribute $32 billion to the state economy.
Part of the bill co-sponsored by Congressman Bill Owens incorporates a new designation for the Great Lakes waterways, including the Saint Lawrence Seaway.. They’ll be designated as a single, unified navigation system. That designation will allow the system’s ports and waterways to bid on government funds for infrastructure projects as a single entity, instead of competing against each other for the same funds.
Through WRRDA, Congress authorizes the key missions of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Those missions include flood and environmental protection projects and the development, maintenance and support of the nation’s waterway infrastructure.
The Water Bill also reauthorizes the National Dam Safety Program, which funds dam repairs, safety research and training, and the development of emergency action plans. The North Country region alone has 180 aging dams that are deemed high-hazard or significant-hazard, because their failure would significantly threaten life and property.
To save taxpayer money and cut red tape, WRRDA reclaims $12 billion in federal funds from inactive projects that were authorized by Congress before 2007. It requires an assessment and inventory of all properties under control of the USACE and creates a system for non-federal entities to take over properties deemed nonessential. WRRDA contains no earmarks and creates a new, transparent review process that will be used to fund future infrastructure projects.
For the first time, the WRRDA will set a hard, three-year deadline for the completion of USACE feasibility studies. Current law allows the USACE to continue these studies indefinitely. According to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, these studies currently take 10 to 15 years to complete. The bill also allows the USACE to accept non-federal public funds to expedite the regulatory permit process.
WRRDA has drawn bipartisan support from a coalition of labor and business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Associated General Contractors of America, the AFL-CIO, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, and the American Iron and Steel Institute.