Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) applauded the passage of a bipartisan bill that will boost funding for harbor maintenance and provide critical resources to small Oregon ports. The legislation, called the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 (WRRDA), gives the Army Corps of Engineers the authorization it needs to move forward with overdue navigation, flood control and environmental restoration projects.
For years, Oregon’s coastal communities have been in economic limbo as the Corps’ dredging and maintenance projects were underfunded and the backlogs of unmet needs grew. With the bill’s passage, the U.S. will make investments in its infrastructure, preventing much more costly fixes in the future. Under current law there is no money set aside for small ports, but DeFazio successfully advocated for a guarantee that ten percent of funds would be set aside for harbor maintenance directed to critical projects for small ports.
“Today the tide turned for some of Oregon’s coastal communities. The federal government will no longer shirk its responsibility to safeguard infrastructure that is critical to thousands of fishing jobs and our local economies,” DeFazio said. “These communities have been neglected for too long. This legislation will ensure that our most critical needs will be met in our ports and harbors—no matter what size.”
In addition, DeFazio offered an amendment to the WRRDA bill that focused on getting ports back in business, rather than undermining critical environmental protections and public participation under the National Environmental Policy Act and other conservation laws. The amendment was defeated, but 183 lawmakers, including 2 Republicans, joined DeFazio in support of the amendment.
“Congress doesn’t need to sidestep critical conservation laws and the environmental review process to speed up approved water resource projects—Congress needs to fund these projects. If we stopped short-changing the Army Corps in the budgeting process we could begin to deal with the $40 billion backlog of critical projects. I objected to the so-called environmental streamlining provisions in this bill and offered an amendment that would require Congress to fully fund approved projects before implementing any new environmental shortcuts. I will continue to fight efforts to roll back environmental protections as we move forward in the legislative process. ”
The legislation passed by a vote of 417 to 3. The bill is now ready to be reconciled with legislation passed by the Senate earlier this year.
Press Release, November 4, 2013