Casey Calls on House to Pass a Water Resource Development Bill That Could Significantly Upgrade Locks and Dams and Create Jobs

Casey Bill That Would Upgrade Locks and Dams, Boost Region’s Economy Passed Senate In May, Awaits Action in House

In Letter to House’s Speaker, Senator Casey Calls for Strong Water Resources Bill That Supports Locks and Dams

Washington, DC- With improvements to Southwestern Pennsylvania’s locks and dams at stake, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), today, called on the U.S. House of Representative to pass a bill with his key provisions that could significantly upgrade the region’s locks and dams and create jobs. Casey’s bill, the RIVER Act, which passed the Senate in May as part of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), is awaiting action in the House. In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Casey called for the body to pass a strong water resources bill that includes the RIVER Act.

“Passing the RIVER Act will create jobs in Southwestern Pennsylvania, grow our economy and make vital upgrades to the region’s aging locks and dams,” Senator Casey said. “This bipartisan bill is an opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to come together on a commonsense strategy that will substantially impact job creation. I’m urging Speaker Boehner to get a strong water resources bill through the House.”

Several provisions Senator Casey championed were included in the WRDA Act, including major portions of the RIVER Act. These measures now await action in the House:

  • Cost Share Requirements: WRDA reforms the way waterways’ projects are paid for and increases the overall investment in inland waterways projects.  It will also increase the cost-share for major rehabilitation projects from $8 million to $20 million.
  • Project Management Process Reforms:  This bill appoints an inland waterways user board members to the project development team of any qualifying project and require their sign-off on any qualifying project. This allows industries to have a seat at the table for the projects which they are helping to fund.
  • Olmsted Lock and Dam Project: WRDA adjusts the federal cost-share for the Olmsted Lock and Dam Project which will help it be completed as soon as possible while also freeing up significant funding for other lock and dam construction projects.  This moves the Lower Monongahela lock and dam replacement project to the top of the list of projects funded by the Inland Waterways Trust Fund and allow it to receive significantly more funding.   This is a crucial step to improving the inland waterways system.
  • Pilot Project Requirement: WRDA directs the Army Corp of Engineers to use a pilot project to evaluate the use of early contractor involvement in acquisitions. It also establishes a system to identify and apply lessons learned from previous projects to improve the likelihood of projects being completed on time and on budget. These reforms are all geared toward lowering project costs and reducing cost overruns.
  • 20 Year Capital Development Plan: WRDA will require the Secretary of the Army to work with the Inland Waterways Users board to develop a twenty year capital investment program for inland waterways projects.
  • Rural Set Aside for Water Infrastructure:  This bill creates a new water infrastructure program that provides loans to municipalities and utilities to rehabilitate and expand waste and drinking water facilities.  Senator Casey co-sponsored a bi-partisan amendment that lowers the cost threshold and allows projects over $5 million in rural communities to be eligible for the program.

The full text of Senator Casey’s letter can be seen below:

The Honorable John Boehner

Speaker

United States House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Speaker Boehner:

As the House prepares it’s version of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), I want to take this opportunity to express my support for several inland waterways provisions that were included in the Senate’s version of WRDA.  It is critical that we maintain and upgrade infrastructure that allows for the continual use of the inland waterways system in the long term.  Thank you in advance for your consideration.

The Senate’s version of WRDA incorporated several key provisions that will help protect the jobs that the inland waterways system supports across the country.  These improvements include project delivery reforms which will improve the Army Corps of Engineers’ management process and help to ensure inland waterways construction projects are completed on time and on budget.  Another reform is a capital investment plan, which will create clear priorities for lock and dam repairs and will ensure that those with the most economic benefits are prioritized first and that all undertaken projects are completed in a timely fashion.  Additionally, an increase to the government's cost-share requirement on major rehabilitation initiatives will help to complete current projects and fund more in the future.  Finally, the bill will adjust the federal cost-share for the Olmsted Lock and Dam which will ensure for its completion and free up significant funding for other lock and dam construction projects. 

I also strongly urge you to include a finance title to the bill to address the sustainability of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund.  The current rate at 20 cents per gallon does not provide sufficient funding to keep up with the construction needs of the system.  If we do not make this investment now, it could have dire consequences on the industries that rely on the use of locks and dams to move their goods.  All 300 users of the inland waterways system support this increase.  In addition to support of industry, this user fee increase is backed by a diverse array of stakeholders including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Farmers Union, the National Association of Manufacturers, American Farm Bureau, the AFL-CIO and over 250 national state and local organizations including barge operators, agriculture, energy and civic and conservation groups. 

A comprehensive WRDA bill is critical for improving flood protection, improving drinking water quality, and enhancing water infrastructure.  It will address many pressing needs while creating jobs and spurring economic growth.  Let me take this opportunity to thank you for your consideration of my priorities. 

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator

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