News Feature | June 2, 2014

Major Water Bill Clears Congress

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

capitolhillreg

A major water infrastructure bill finally cleared the finish line in Congress after months of heated debate. The Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) passed by a vote of 91 to 7, Reuters reported.

"The U.S. Senate [on May 22] overwhelmingly approved legislation that authorizes spending on inland waterways and port infrastructure, and tackles flood protection and measures to limit damage from storms," Reuters reported. The final step is a signature from President Obama, which is expected. 

Language regarding steel and iron sparked last-minute concerns from water equipment makers. The Water & Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA) sent a letter to a group of key lawmakers expressing opposition to certain language in one version of the bill. 

"We remain adamantly opposed...to the American Iron and Steel language that has been placed on both the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund and the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014 (Sec. 5035) in the legislation," the letter said. 

WWEMA argued that the language would create a monopoly for a small set of companies, create regulatory burdens, stifle competition, and put U.S. companies at risk. The letter said there was "much to be proud of" in that version of the bill, but that the iron and steel language would "negate" many of the benefits. 

The steel industry praised a version of the bill passed by the House.

"The steel industry relies heavily on seaports and inland waterways to move raw materials necessary for steelmaking and bring finished steel products to market. However, a bill to improve water infrastructure is long overdue," said Thomas Gibson, head of the American Iron & Steel Institute, in a statement

"Our nation’s seaports are heavily congested and not dredged to full capacity, while our inland waterways include obsolete and aging infrastructure that often results in costly delays – threatening more than one million U.S. jobs in the next six years. This long- awaited compromise bill will help ensure our nation remains globally competitive, and provide more efficient and cost-effective navigation for our vital water infrastructure needs," he said.

The legislation also raised concerns among conservative groups as it neared the finish line. 

"Heritage Action issued a key-vote alert against the bill, saying that the 'massive piece of legislation crosses five out of six red lines laid out by the Heritage Foundation,'" Politico reported.

Taxpayers for Common Sense spoke out in opposition, too. Per Politico, the group said the legislation is a “missed opportunity to reform management of our nation’s infrastructure in a fiscally responsible manner.” 

"The group wrote that the bill has everything from 'dumb' (beach re-nourishment projects)...to 'mind-blowing' (the Morganza project)," Politico reported. 

For more policy news, check out Water Online's Legislation and Regulations Solution Center.

Image credit: "capitol hill," Elliott P. © 2007, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

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