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House Advances Legislation to Strengthen Port and Waterway Infrastructure

Tuesday, October 08, 2013
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure unanimously approved Oct. 4 the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (H.R. 3080), which among other things aims to help the U.S. remain competitive in the global economy. Activities authorized under this bill are designed to maintain the U.S. internal waterway system, which is used to transport a large share of agricultural exports, and to prepare U.S. port infrastructure for the larger cargo ships that will be able to transit the expanded Panama  Canal starting in 2015 as well as trade volumes that are expected to double within a decade and then double again by 2030. Among the bill’s provisions are the following.

- limits feasibility studies to three years and $3 million, streamlines environmental reviews, eliminates duplicative analyses, and expedites permit evaluation and processing

- establishes a new, transparent process for future bills to review and prioritize water resources development activities with strong congressional oversight; e.g., requiring the Corps of Engineers to annually publish a Federal Register notice requesting proposals from non-federal interests regarding water resources development needs

- authorizes the Corps of Engineers to accept funds from non-federal entities to operate, maintain and improve the inland waterway transportation system

- ensures that by fiscal year 2020 at least 80% of the funds in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund go to port operation and maintenance activities

- supports underserved, emerging ports by allocating 10% of annual HMTF expenditures for FY 2015 and 2016 to harbors that have annual throughput of less than one million tons

- reforms and preserves the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, which finances construction and major rehabilitation projects

- authorizes priority water resources infrastructure improvements recommended by the Chief of the Army Corps of Engineers to improve navigation and commerce

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