The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

House approves $12 billion-plus infrastructure bill authorizing water projects

  • Print

WASHINGTON - The House passed the closest thing so far this year to an infrastructure bill — a $12 billion-plus bipartisan measure authorizing 34 water projects, ranging from flood protection in California and North Dakota to deepening the Port of Savannah and widening a Texas-Louisiana waterway that services the oil industry.

The Water Resources Reform and Development Act passed Tuesday on a 412-4 vote. Lawmakers shook off criticism from conservative and watchdog groups like Heritage Action and Taxpayers for Common Sense that argued the bill should have done more to rein in wasteful government spending.

The Senate could vote on the bill before the end of the week, sending it to President Barack Obama for his signature. The legislation is a bipartisan compromise of companion bills passed separately by the House and Senate last year. After months of negotiations, a final deal on it was reached last week.

Supporters, including business interests like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hailed, it an economy-boosting measure that could deliver thousands of new jobs.

"It's a bipartisan bill, and it is a jobs bill," said Bill Shuster, chairman of the House Transportation Committee. "It's certainly going to create construction jobs, but the jobs I'm talking about are when American invests in its infrastructure and keeps us competitive."

Shuster, R-Pa., and other lawmakers also argued the bill was more fiscally responsible than past water projects bills. On the House floor, he noted the bill puts an end to $18 billion in dormant water projects passed before 2007.

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., said the bill was overdue because the country has fallen behind on its investments in infrastructure. "Many of our coastal ports are ill prepared to take advantage of the expansion of the Panama Canal," said Rahall, the ranking Democrat on the transportation committee.

That was not enough for some critics. A Taxpayers for Common Sense analysis released this week called the bill "a missed opportunity to reform management of our nation's infrastructure in a fiscally responsible manner."

Adam Kolton, with the National Wildlife Federation, said the bill didn't do enough to "sort out the beneficial projects from the boondoggles." He said it also "hurts taxpayers again by increasing subsidies for the already heavily-subsidized navigation industry."

With an estimated cost of $12.3 billion, the measure is a slimmer version of past water project bills. The last one in 2007, for example, had a price tag of $23.3 billion.

The new bill addresses pent-up demands by lawmakers, including addressing flooding concerns in places like Fargo, North Dakota and the Natomas Basin in the Sacramento, California area.

The bill authorizes spending up to $800 million for a flood diversion project that would protect the Red River Valley region of North Dakota and Minnesota, which includes Fargo. The region has suffered major flooding four of the past five years.

In California, the bill allows as much as $760 million in federal spending for a project that would strengthen levees of the Natomas Basin in the Sacramento area, which could protect more than 100,000 residents.

There are also big investments in projects that improve infrastructure for commerce.

The bill sanctions more than $748 million for dredging and widening of the 80-mile-long Sabine-Neches Waterway, which is billed as "America's Energy Gateway" in servicing oil and natural gas refineries in Texas and Louisiana. It also authorizes $492 million for expanding and deepening the Port of Savannah. Actual funding of all the projects will require separate bills.

Congress is expected to consider another key infrastructure bill before the end of the year. A Senate panel last week approved a bill to shore up federal highway programs in time to stop a disruption in in federal transportation aid to states this summer.

Besides authorizing specific water projects, Tuesday's bill makes changes to how future projects are to seek funding. It sets specific time and cost limits for studies on potential projects, eliminates duplicative Army Corps of Engineers reviews and speeds up environmental reviews.

The bill also increases spending from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to pay for improvements to ports and creates a five-year pilot program to provide loans and loan guarantees for various projects.

All four lawmakers who voted against the bill were Republicans: Reps. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, Justin Amash of Michigan, Louie Gohmert of Texas and Matt Salmon of Arizona.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Key of Bart - The Floodway Connection

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS 060710 The full moon rises above the prairie south of Winnipeg Monday evening.
  • A female Mallard duck leads a group of duckings on a morning swim through the reflections in the Assiniboine River at The Forks Monday.     (WAYNE GLOWACKI/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) Winnipeg Free Press  June 18 2012

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Will you miss Grandma Elm?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google