Yesterday President Obama signed the Water Resources Reform Development Act (WRDA) 2014 into law and maritime groups celebrated the passage of the nation's first waterways infrastructure bill in seven years.

“AWO applauds President Obama for signing this economically critical legislation into law and thanks his administration for recognizing that water transportation is an essential element of the nation’s multimodal transportation system," said Tom Allegretti, AWO president and CEO, on behalf of the nation's tugboat, towboat and barge operators.  “This much-needed legislation will advance the reliability of the nation’s waterways infrastructure and ensure that funding for essential projects is allocated efficiently. Included in this law are important provisions of the Inland Waterways Capital Development Plan that will have a positive impact on the waterway transportation system and the American economy.”

“WRRDA is a victory for the nation. It helps ensure the continued safe, efficient and environmentally friendly delivery of critical cargo via the nation’s waterways,” Allegretti said.

The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) also commended President Obama for officially signing the act into law.

“This WRDA legislation will produce a more efficient maritime infrastructure that strengthens our position as a global trade leader," said Kurt Nagle, AAPA president and CEO. 

Nagle praised the leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works who crafted the new WRDA legislation, along with the WRDA reform “that enables expedited navigation project studies, creates more flexibility for capital investment and advances construction on the nation's 21st century maritime infrastructure.”

“Additionally, this legislation establishes a means for donor port equity,” Nagle said. He further noted that by establishing targets for full use of the Harbor Maintenance Tax revenues for their intended purposes, “Congress has achieved a major milestone by setting the bar for putting the ‘trust’ back into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund."

Waterways Council, Inc. (WCI) also celebrated the signing and praised the House Appropriations Committee’s Energy & Water Subcommittee approval, by unanimous voice vote, the fiscal year 2015 appropriations bill that funds the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works program. 

“Today is momentous for the inland waterways, but also for Americans who rely upon the critical cargoes that are transported on our rivers, said Michael Toohey, WCI president and CEO.  

Fiscal year 2015 funding for the Corps’ Civil Works mission is $5.493 billion, an increase of $25 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and nearly $1 billion ($959.5 million) above the President's budget request.

According to Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, highlights include:

  • Navigation projects (undesignated) will receive an increase of $484 million above the administration’s request. 
  • Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) supported projects received an increase of $112 million or a total of $281 million for priority projects in fiscal year 2015. As is normally the case, project-specific details are being withheld until the full committee marks up the bill. The expectation is that the bill will be considered there next week. 
  • Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) spending will increase by $185 million above the administration’s request.
  • Inland Operations & Maintenance (O&M) will increase by $45 million over the administration’s request.
  • There are no new starts or earmarks in the bill.