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Keywords:

  • U.S. federal Water Resources Development Act (WRDA);
  • reauthorization

Although the details are not even written for forthcoming legislation to reauthorize the U.S. federal Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), three broad themes emerged during a 20 September hearing by the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW). First, passage of the WRDA bill, which would authorize water projects around the country, already appears to have bipartisan support, as well as support from conservation, industry, and labor groups. WRDA was last reauthorized in 2007 when the Senate voted 79–14 in broad bipartisan support to override President George W. Bush's veto of the $23 billion bill. Second, although the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—which manages, operates, and maintains a vast water resources infrastructure including more than 600 dams, 926 harbors, and 12,000 miles of commercial inland navigation channels—received some praise for its projects, it was also criticized as being a bureaucracy in need of repair. Third, WRDA legislation is operating under different ground rules than in the past. EPW committee chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said that she has been working with Republicans on WRDA legislation and that she hopes to move forward with a bill later this year—possibly bringing it up for a markup during Congress's lame duck session following the national election in November. She said that would be a way to set a marker for leadership on both sides of the congressional aisle to move forward with the bill. Boxer said she would “get my dream bill in place” and then provide it to committee ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and other Republicans for their comments.