The Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) passed both chambers of Congress overwhelmingly, sending it to the president’s desk for signature. The House acted first, passing the bill May 20 by a vote of 412 to 4. The Senate followed suit May 22, passing the bill by a vote of 91 to 7 with two not voting. The president is expected to sign the bill this week.
The House members voting against the bill were: Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Rep. Tim. Huelskamp (R-Kan.), Rep. Justin Amash (D-Mich.) and Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) Senators voting no were: Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).
Six months of intense negotiations between House and Senate conferees produced a truly bipartisan bill aimed at reforming and streamlining an outdated bureaucracy, increasing flexibility for public-private investment and eliminating earmarks. The first water resources bill to be passed in seven years discontinues funding for $18 billion in old, inactive projects and sunsets new authorizations to prevent future project backlogs.
WRRDA contains no earmarks, but does establish a new process for reviewing and prioritizing water resource development activities with strong congressional oversight. The bill sets a three-year deadline and a $3 million cap on all Army Corps of Engineers feasibility studies, and requires concurrent rather than sequential reviews on the studies. The overall goal of these changes is to reduce the review process from the current average of 15 years down to just three.
NSSGA supported the WRRDA conference report and communicated its support in letters to all members of Congress prior to the vote in the respective chambers. NSSGA is now pushing Congress to take action to restore solvency and stability to the Highway Trust Fund.