Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Water Resources Reform and Development Act

An excerpt from this week’s edition of MN/DOT's Transportation Weekly.  Articles of interest include:
House Passes Bipartisan Water Bill by Bipartisan Margin, 417-3.  Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) by an overwhelming vote of 417-3.  This huge margin reflects the unanimity among House leadership on this legislation and the ability of both party caucuses to manage their constituents’ interests.  House approval of this bill opens the way for a conference with the Senate on its water projects bill, to produce a final bill for Congress to pass and send to President Obama.
WRRDA provides $12 billion for a wide range of waterways construction projects handled by the Army Corps of Engineers' civil works arm, including:
·         Projects for mitigating storm and hurricane damage
·         Restoring ecosystems
·         Flood control projects
·         Navigation projects.
·         Dredging for Seaport harbors and other channel maintenance for ports handling ocean vessels
·         Upgrading locks and dams on inland waterways.
·         Assistance for state and local governments with levee safety programs
·         Assistance for Indian tribes with planning and technical assistance for water resources projects.
Key Minnesota provisions:
·         Closure of the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam in Minneapolis one year after the date of enactment if the annual average tonnage moved during the preceding 5 years was less than 1,500,000 tons.
·         Authorization of two Minnesota projects:
--A joint Minnesota/North Dakota project  to divert the Red River around the Fargo metroplex ($800 million in federal funds). 
--$6.4 million for the Marsh Lake Ecosystem Restoration Project (DNR is the state partner) to restore the Pomme de Terre River to its historic channel (Big Stone. Lac Qui Parle and Swift counties). 
House-Senate Budget Talks Begin.  The House and Senate Conference Committee convened on October 16.  The two chambers are far apart on total amount of discretionary spending for the twelve appropriations bills for FY 2014:  the Senate budget contains $91.1 billion more than the House total.  The House budget calls for $415 billion and the Senate budget calls for $506 billion.  Highway Trust Funded programs are not impacted by discretionary spending decisions. 
The Senate funding total for the following transportation programs is $33.5 billion.  The House budget would cut $2.6 billion in funding from this list of programs:
·         FAA
·         Other US DOT discretionary programs
·         Coast Guard
·         Corps of Engineers Water Program
·         Transportation Security Administration