What It Was
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing: “America’s water infrastructure needs and challenges,” which focused on improvements for ports through the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).
Why It Matters
Around 90 percent of the food, technology, and clothing we use daily is transported through ports. Whether inland or coastal, these aquatic transportation hubs play a critical role in our economy, livelihoods, health, and security, so maintaining their infrastructure is important to all Americans.
WRDA, which authorizes all water infrastructure needs, is traditionally reauthorized every two years and expires in December 2018. The bill typically authorizes mostly noncontroversial water resources development projects that have already been vetted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Water infrastructure projects include locks, dams, inland waterways, and ports.
Witnesses suggested ways to enhance the act and specific port projects. Ideas for changes included streamlining the USACE study process identifying improvements to navigation channels, combining a mix of natural (green) and artificial (grey) infrastructure when restoring shorelines, and increasing collaboration with state and local governments.
Chairman John Barasso (WY) and Ranking Member Tom Carper (DE) both acknowledged the need to maintain port infrastructure and the critical role maritime ports play in the everyday lives of Americans.
Mr. William Friedman (Chairman-elect, American Association of Port Authorities and President and Chief Executive Officer Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority) reminded the committee that constructing and maintaining maritime infrastructure is vital to our nation’s economy.
“Our nation’s ports on our coasts and inland waterways are vital to the country’s economic well-being.” – Chairman John Barrasso (WY)
“We need to work in a bipartisan fashion if we are to really address [port infrastructure needs] and build consensus on a path forward in a smart, cost-efficient way, leveraging both ‘green’ as well as traditional ‘gray’ infrastructure solutions” – Ranking Member Tom Carper (DE)
“Healthy shellfish beds, wetlands, and maritime and mangrove forests can enhance the integrity of engineered features and extend the useful life of traditional infrastructure, protecting ports and other coastal assets.” – Mr. Steve Cochran (Associate Vice-President for Coastal Protection, Environmental Defense Fund and Director, Restore the Mississippi Delta Coalition)
“It is imperative that port related infrastructure be a part of any broad infrastructure investment legislation the Committee develops.” – Mr. William Friedman (Chairman-elect, American Association of Port Authorities and President and Chief Executive Officer Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority)
This was the start of the WRDA reauthorization process. The final WRDA bill will include authorization of projects submitted to Congress by the USACE in the form of Chief’s Reports (results and recommendations of a feasibility study on a specific project).
Find Out More
Related coverage from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership