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Key Vote Alert - S. 601, the "Water Resources Development Act of 2013"

Monday, May 13, 2013 - 8:00pm

TO THE MEMBERS OF THE UNITED STATES SENATE:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than three million members and organizations of every size, sector, and region, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations, and dedicated to promoting, protecting, and defending America’s free enterprise system, strongly urges you to vote for S. 601, the “Water Resources Development Act of 2013,” which would reform and authorize U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (Army Corps) Civil Works programs and policies related to navigation, flood risk management, recreation, infrastructure and environmental stewardship.

This bill would provide critical economic benefits, supporting growth and jobs all across America. Waterborne cargo and associated activities contribute more than $649 billion annually to U.S. Gross Domestic Product, sustaining more than 13 million jobs, according to the Committee on the Marine Transportation System.

The Chamber is pleased that S. 601 addresses the Chamber’s priorities outlined in the “U.S. Chamber of Commerce Policy Statement on Marine Transportation.” Among those priorities are:

  • Improving federal coordination and providing planning assistance to states;
  • Increasing investment in the Marine Transportation System (MTS) and ensuring that any revenues derived from users should be fully and solely utilized for their intended purposes;
  • Providing incentives to attract private investment through the use of federal credit models and supporting pilot projects that promote usage of innovative financing tools; and
  • Creating the conditions for successful Army Corps project delivery including streamlining and strengthening the feasibility study and permitting process.

This bill incorporates the recommendation made by the Inland Waterway Users Board to modify the federal cost-share for the Olmsted Lock and Dam Project. The Olmsted project needs to be completed as soon as practicable, but additional project cost overruns should be the responsibility of the federal government, not the user-supported Inland Waterways Trust Fund. Implementing this recommendation would free up resources for other capital construction efforts along the inland waterways system. Further, the Chamber applauds the provisions allowing for the ultimate full use of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for its intended purposes.

The Chamber is concerned that S. 601 would limit the initiation of new studies of projects necessary for the protection of human life and property, the environment, or the national security interests of the United States. Also, this bill does not include U.S. economic competitiveness or interstate commerce among the criteria to justify initiating a new study. As the MTS functions primarily to support economic competitiveness and growth, this is a noticeable omission. Further, this bill would not authorize federal investment of the inland waterways system beyond current Energy and Water Appropriations levels. It is critical for Congress to address the existing gap between needs and existing resources for investing in the inland waterways and the MTS.

S.601 is an important step toward providing critical economic benefits to the nation, its people and businesses. While a bill addressing a range of water issues and policies is not without some controversy, the United States should not miss opportunities to spur economic growth, improve our global competitiveness, and create jobs. The Chamber strongly supports S. 601. The Chamber may include votes on, or in relation to, S. 601 in our annual How They Voted scorecard.

Sincerely,
R. Bruce Josten