House Passes Water Resource & Reform Development (WRRDA) Act

Earlier this week, the House passed its version of a reauthorization for and update to the longstanding infrastructure program that funds U.S. Corps of Engineer projects, the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, and numerous inland waterway projects.  HR 3080, the Water Resource & Reform Development Act, passed the House by a vote of 417-3.

As passed, the measure authorizes 23 new water projects; calls for increased spending of the funds collected through the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund; and places a limit on the length of project feasibility studies (3 years) and how much Federal funding is available for each study ($3 million).  As a revenue offset for the additional funding, the bill deauthorizes $12 billion in projects that have not begun construction or on which no funding has yet been spent.  Further, the bill offers greater flexibility to state and local governments to carry out projects that do not have Congressional authorization as long as they meet certain requirements.

The House passed bill does not include any language calling for creation or piloting of a new infrastructure financing approach.  The Senate version (S 601) of WRDA (passed in May 2013) includes a five year pilot effort whereby EPA and the Corps would each receive $50 million annually to make direct loans to large water/wastewater utilities where project costs are not less than $20 million; projects are deemed ready to proceed; have a strong mix of public/private financing; and consider innovative technologies, water and energy efficiency, and climate-related impact mitigation.

No decisions have been made, as yet, as to when or whether the House and Senate would come to conference to iron out the differences between the two measures.  It is interesting to note, however, that if some form of WRDA is enacted, it would be the first such measure enacted since 2007.