Congress this week passed the $12 billion Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), paving the way for funding of water infrastructure projects nationwide.
WRRDA will fund improvements to the nation’s ports, channels, locks, dams and other infrastructure that support waterways transportation. Ohio is ranked 13th in the nation for exports. Transporting freight by water is the most energy efficient option. It takes 200 railcars or 1,000 semi-trucks to move what one 15-tow barge can transport using a fraction of the fuel, according to American Farm Bureau Federation transportation specialist Andrew Walmsley. Savings are about $14 per ton to use the waterways instead of rails or roads.
Last year both the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed versions of the bill. This week both chambers passed a compromise bill that authorizes 34 new projects for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. President Obama is expected to sign the bill.
“We wrote this bill without compromising our key principles: maintaining fiscal responsibility, streamlining studies and reviews of projects, removing all earmarks and maintaining Congress’ role in determining our nation’s infrastructure projects,” said Ohio Rep. Bob Gibbs, a co-sponsor of the bill. “WRRDA will ensure that America maintains and expands upon this competitive advantage, not just today but in the years to come.”
AFBF said it was imperative that Congress pass the legislation. A report by the American Society of Civil Engineers shows about 50 percent of the nation’s 257 locks are classified as functionally obsolete and by 2020 that percent is expected to increase to 80 percent.
Improving and replacing the nation’s aging waterway and port system is needed to protect jobs and to keep the United States globally competitive. More than 60 percent of U.S. grain grown for export is transported via inland waterways and 95 percent of agricultural exports and imports move through U.S. harbors, according to AFBF.
“The American Farm Bureau Federation and our 6 million member families have long championed an efficient and reliable inland waterway system linked to competitive ports,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said. “We’re pleased that Congress recognizes that the ports, channels, locks, dams and other infrastructure that support our waterways transportation are vital to America’s ability to provide affordable agricultural products at home and abroad.”