For the first time in seven years, Congress and the president have put funding towards strategic investments in the nation’s ports and inland waterways, increasing American competitiveness and creating hundreds of thousands of high-paying U.S. jobs.
In a public ceremony at the White House on June 10, President Obama signed the Water Resources Reform & Development Act (WRRDA).
The $12 billion water infrastructure bill authorizes work on 34 flood control, environmental restoration, harbor deepening and inland waterway projects. It also addresses how much money is spent from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, sets up a project financing system modeled on the popular federal credit program for surface transportation (TIFIA) and aims to boost ocean resiliency.
The bill passed both chambers on overwhelming margins in late May, after six months of negotiations.
The U.S. Chamber was a major supporter of the legislation throughout the process, and applauded the final step. Janet Kavinoky, executive director of Transportation and Infrastructure for the Chamber said:
America’s marine transportation system is an engine for economic growth and job creation. It enables the business community to transport goods in an energy efficient, environmentally-friendly manner to domestic and international markets. We’re thrilled that for the first time in seven years there is an authorization, with real reforms and a path toward fully using the Harbor Maintenance Trust Find -- critically important for energy and related industries - for it’s intended use. This reauthorization is an essential investment for the future of our country.
In particular, the Chamber is also encouraged that the conference report would address the issue of public-private partnerships (PPP) for delivery of water resources projects by establishing a PPP pilot program and other innovative financing tools to invest in water infrastructure. The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA)—modeled on the successful TIFIA program—would provide loans and loan guarantees for important water quality, drinking water and flood control projects.
This law is an important step toward providing critical economic benefits to the nation, its people and businesses. Strategic investments in the nation’s navigation network have a dramatic direct-employment effect on the hardest hit segment of the economy—construction—while simultaneously delivering substantial benefits to the country’s global competitiveness. Based on a 2012 report conducted by the Associated Equipment Distributors, one dollar spent on infrastructure construction produces roughly double ($1.92) the initial spending in direct and indirect economic output. The long-term impact is also significant, with a dollar in aggregate public infrastructure spending generating $3.21 in economic output (GDP) over a 20-year period.
The Chamber's Executive Vice President for Government Affairs Bruce Josten issued a statement calling for Congress to now shift its focus to other areas—such as ensuring the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund.
In a year in which compromise has been difficult, the House, the Senate, and the administration have come together to enact critical, reform-focused water resources legislation that will not only enable strategic investment in our ports and waterways, but also increase American competitiveness and support well-paying U.S. jobs. The projects that this investment enables will help increase our capacity to export American energy and agriculture and positively impact our ability to compete in the global economy. This is a win for both America’s infrastructure and for the overall economy, and an example of the progress that can be made when economic priorities trump politics.
Follow Sheryll Poe on Twitter at @ChamberFlack and the U.S. Chamber at @uschamber.