WRDA awaiting final passage

Congress quickly passed waterways legislation that would expedite U.S. lock and dam modernization.
The Senate approved the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2022 on Dec. 15, sending WRDA to the president for signature. The House approved the legislation on Dec. 8.  
The final WRDA 2022 makes permanent a 2020 change in the cost-share formula for inland waterway construction projects to 35% from the general Treasury fund and 65% from the Inland Waterway Trust Fund. The new WRDA removes a provision that would sunset the 65-35 cost-share back to 50-50 in 10 years. 
The bill, which authorizes more than $37 billion in federal funds for inland waterways projects, was passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. Importantly, the bipartisan deal neither authorizes nor paves the way for the breach or removal of dams in the Columbia-Snake River System, which is the third largest grain export corridor in the world.
“American agriculture’s competitive advantage depends upon the reliability and cost-effectiveness of the national transportation system. The permanent change in the waterways cost-share formula passed by Congress this week will expedite the modernization of U.S. locks and dams and provide certainty for agriculture and other waterways stakeholders,” said Mike Seyfert, President and CEO of the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA). “We thank House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Chairman Peter DeFazio D-Ore.; Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) Chairman Tom Carper, D-Del.; EPW Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; and T&I Ranking Member Sam Graves, R-Mo., for reaching a bipartisan compromise on this important legislation. NGFA and its members commend Congress for undertaking the WRDA process every two years to examine policies and projects that enhance and promote the utilization of this critical mode of transportation.”

WRDA is also vital for the agricultural input supply chain, including fertilizer. 

“Making the cost-share permanent will promote much needed investment for inland navigation projects, as well as provide confidence to industry that much needed maintenance and modernization of our inland waterway system will happen,” said Corey Rosenbusch, president and CEO of The Fertilizer Institute. “On a ton-mile basis, approximately one-fourth of fertilizer moves on the inland barge system and these projects are absolutely critical to the safe and efficient distribution of fertilizers.”

Rosenbusch also noted the 700% increase in unscheduled work stoppages for repairs of locks and dams built nearly a hundred years ago but designed only to last 50 years. 

“These delays are not only disastrous for the farmers who receive much of the almost 70 million tons of fertilizer each year via our nation’s waterways, they can also raise the prices of everyday goods and food for consumers,” Rosenbusch said. “The fertilize industry appreciates the bipartisan work of Congressional leaders that have made modernization of our inland waterways a priority.”

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