Congressman Bob Gibbs and Congressman Pat Tiberi recently hosted a meeting in Mt. Vernon providing an update on agricultural issues. They covered a wide array of agricultural topics but water was a common theme at the event.
Representative Gibbs talked at length about the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA) that was passed last May. WRRDA provides funding for vital inland waterway projects and brings a greater degree of accountability to the Army Corps of Engineers project delivery system by prioritizing authorized improvements based upon risk of failure and economic return to the nation.
“WRRDA is a bill that authorizes the Army Corps projects around the country. This is huge for agriculture to become more competitive. We have an aging system of locks and dams now,” Gibbs said. “The new, deeper Panama Canal allows for bigger ships that are being built now and we only have two ports in the U.S. that can handle those bigger ships. We have to make sure we get our ports and infrastructure to where they need to be.”
• Federalize the project at the Olmsted Locks and Dams. This would create a permanent cost-sharing arrangement for the remaining cost of the project, with 85% of funding taken from the general fund and 15% taken from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. This would make approximately $105 million per year available for funding other Trust Fund priority projects.
• Redefine major rehabilitation projects eligible for funding through the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, increasing the current level defined in law from $14 million to $20 million. The level would also be adjusted annually to account for inflation.
• Prioritize projects solely upon the basis of risk of failure and economic benefit to the United States.
• Reform project delivery to achieve on-time and on-budget performance.
Both Tiberi and Gibbs also expressed concern about the EPA action on the Clean Water Act.
“This Administration sees a chance to expand their jurisdiction. They say they are not, but I know that they are,” Gibbs said. “That opens up farms to additional permitting and additional costs bureaucracy and red tape. States are equipped now to do the regulation and control this. This expansion of the Federal Government is concerning. As far as we know, not one state EPA supports this rule that is a power grab by the Federal Government away from the states. I would also argue this is a policy change that erodes private property rights.”
Regarding the water situation in Toledo, Gibbs had this to say.
“We need to figure out why we are having this problem. It is a host of things. We are addressing this and working on a solution,” he said. “We have to figure out what the real science is here and not getting emotional. This is a big issue.”