NGFA Commends House Passage of Waterways Infrastructure Bill
Date Posted: October 24, 2013
WashingtonThe National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) commended Oct. 24 the House for passing its version of a waterway infrastructure bill by an overwhelming 417 to 3 vote on Oct. 23.
The bill (H.R. 3080) - the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) - contains important reforms to streamline and expedite the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' process for approving much-needed projects to renovate and replace deteriorating locks and dams on the U.S. inland waterways system.
It also contains a new funding formula to complete the long-overdue Olmstead lock-and-dam project on the Ohio River, which has consumed a disproportionate share of barge fuel user fees paid by the barge-towing industry and delayed other lock-improvement projects on the inland waterways system.
The NGFA in particular commended the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's leadership - Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., and Ranking Member Nick Rahall II, D-W.Va., as well as Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, and subcommittee Ranking Member Tim Bishop, D-N.Y. - for their strong bipartisan efforts in securing passage of the House measure.
The Senate in May passed its version of the waterways development bill (S. 601), and a joint House-Senate conference committee is expected to be established soon to reconcile differences between the two measures.
"House passage represents an important step in securing final congressional approval of legislation that would enhance America's inland waterways infrastructure - most of which was constructed in the 1930s with a projected 50-year lifespan," said NGFA President Randy Gordon.
"We and other stakeholders will continue to pursue a legislative vehicle that would increase the barge diesel fuel user fee that the industry itself is willing to pay to secure the cost-share funding needed to actually construct and renovate the locks on the inland waterway system that would be authorized under the waterways legislation, which is essential to the future competitiveness of U.S. agriculture."
The NGFA noted that the upper Mississippi and Illinois River System typically is used to transport about 60 percent of U.S. grain and oilseed exports each year, as well as for imports of fertilizer, other crop inputs and industrial products.
These exports and other navigation activity support more than 400,000 jobs, including 90,000 high-paying manufacturing jobs.
Meanwhile, the Columbia and Snake River System in the Pacific Northwest is a crucial river highway for supplying U.S. wheat, as well as corn, soybeans and other agricultural products, to customers in Pacific Rim countries.
The NGFA noted that it has been six years since Congress passed a waterways transportation bill.
Historically, Congress has passed such legislation in two-year intervals.
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