Based upon indications contained in a legislative priorities' memo from House Leader Eric Cantor to GOP members earlier in September, the bill should be voted on by the full House sometime this autumn. The Senate version of the bill, the "Water Resources Development Act of 2013," was passed in May by a 83-14 vote. Assuming WRRDA passes the House, the two bills would likely head to a Senate-House conference committee, during which conferees would attempt to reconcile their differences. Here is an analysis of the Senate bill, particularly as it relates to Mississippi River Basin water issues.
While authorizing 23 navigation, flood protection and ecosystem restoration projects, WRRDA also establishes a new procedural mechanism to approve new, future projects, and proposes to reform existing Army Corps of Engineers' procedures, by arguably streamlining the project review process and capping the cost of project studies. In addition to those and other sections of the bill of a more national scope, the House draft measure contains several provisions that directly reference and would impact Mississippi River Basin and Gulf Coast waters. Here are several such provisions of note:
Section 116 of the bill requires the Corps of Engineers, as part of the President's annual budget process, to report to Congress on the prioritization of federal actions to be carried out during the next fiscal year to mitigate for fish and wildlife losses as a result of Corps of Engineers projects in the Missouri River Basin. The wording calls for the Corps' report to "assist in the prioritization of Federal activities" related to a Missouri River Bank Stabilization and Navigation Project designed to repair channel stabilization structures on the Missouri River as a result of damage sustained during the flood of 2011 (in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska). The report to Congress is to include:
- " an inventory of all Federal actions taken and a prioritization of all Federal actions planned in furtherance of the project, including an inventory of lands owned, acquired, or directly controlled by the Federal Government, and lands enrolled in federally-assisted conservation programs;
- "a description of the specific Federal actions proposed for the upcoming fiscal year in furtherance of the project;
- "an assessment of the progress made in furtherance of the project, including a description of how each of the actions identified under paragraph (1) have impacted such progress; and
- "an assessment of additional actions necessary to achieve the results of the project."
|Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam|
The bill was sponsored by Committee Chair Bill Shuster (R-9- PA) and Committee Ranking Member Nick Rahall (D-3-WV), Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chair Bob Gibbs (R-7-OH) and Subcommittee Ranking Member Tim Bishop (D-1-NY).