Trade and resource conservation
America's ports and waterways strengthen our economic resilience, public safety and geopolitical security, enabling the delivery of energy, agricultural products and manufactured goods. By reforming water resources legislation, U.S. can not only ensure the reliability of these important assets but our financial security over the long-term.
The recovery and continued growth of U.S. industries depends on the capacity and condition of an extensive maritime transportation network - our gateway to the international marketplace - but numerous ports and waterways currently require critical repairs, upgrades and expansions.
The Water Resources Development Act of 2020 (WRDA) stands to renew the nation's commitment to infrastructure modernization and environmental protection, allowing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to address maintenance needs and conduct feasibility studies - unlocking the potential of America's water resources.
The bipartisan legislation, which has been successfully enacted by three previous congresses, would provide ongoing authorizations and improvements to infrastructure development projects, while creating local jobs, supporting communities and protecting the environment.
America has more than 300 commercial ports and nearly 25,000 miles of inland waterways, which support $1.8 trillion annually in international trade. In 2018, U.S. waterways carried more than 2.4 billion short tons of farm produce, manufactured products, raw materials and other goods, including over 1 billion short tons of petroleum.
However, many of these infrastructure assets have reached the end of their design life, with grades ranging in the Cs and Ds, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers' 2017 Infrastructure Report Card. It is critical we close the investment gap if we hope to both repair and modernize our water resources systems to be competitive in the 21st century.
As the U.S. has become a major producer of natural gas and oil - and a net exporter of total energy - ports and waterways along the Gulf of Mexico are increasingly essential to the nation's economic growth and energy security. Connections with railroads, highways and pipelines ensure that supply chains operate efficiently, even in landlocked states across the U.S.
The proposed WRDA legislation would allow for the full appropriation of the cumulative Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund balance, accessing $10 billion for dredging ports and inland harbors. It would also restructure the Inland Waterways Trust Fund cost-shares, double aid for small harbors, and authorize investments for dam upgrades, dredging projects and levee repairs. Accessing the Trust Fund balance would finance operations and maintenance needs at coastal ports, inland waterways and emerging harbors to increase the productivity of our maritime commerce.
Additionally, the bill would include reforms to the HighHazard Potential Dam Rehabilitation Program, which would clarify eligibility requirements, better define technical terms and help the program run more smoothly.
WRDA reform would also advance flood control and protection projects aimed at reducing the potential risks of severe and repetitive flooding events, particularly in farming communities across the
Midwest. To bolster recovery and resilience, WRDA would allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to design mitigative solutions for repeatedly flooded regions, ensuring that waterways function without damaging the surrounding property.
The provisions in WRDA would facilitate construction and maintenance projects from Alaska's Dutch Harbor to the Mississippi and Ohio River navigation systems, benefitting America's farmers, businesses, consumers and natural resources.
Legislative action on maritime infrastructure development stands to reinforce the long-term health of U.S. trade and environmental conservation. The House prioritized our water resources last month by unanimously passing WRDA, and now the Senate should act to get this to the president's desk.
By reauthorizing our federal response to local water resources - and maintaining oversight on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' civil works mission - Congress can secure America's waterways and preserve our competitive advantage through reliable, far-reaching transportation infrastructure.