Wicker Delivers Senate Speech in Support of Water Resources Bill

May 21, 2014

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, today took to the Senate floor in support of the House-Senate agreement on the “Water Resources Development Act” (WRDA). The measure, which is likely to be voted on by the Senate tomorrow, would enhance Mississippi’s vast waterway infrastructure and improve storm protection projects.

“This legislation is a great bipartisan accomplishment and a major win for economic development,” Wicker said. “In particular, I am encouraged by reforms to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which promise to help our ports with much-needed dredging. The fund, which was established for port improvements, is currently underutilized.

“Using this money for its intended purpose would help facilitate critical port upgrades – an especially important investment in preparation for the upcoming completion of the Panama Canal expansion.

“A lapse in maintenance can become a vicious cycle, impairing a port’s ability to secure future maintenance dredging. Coastal ports, such as Mississippi’s Port of Gulfport, have been disadvantaged as a result. Thanks to an amendment by Sen. Thad Cochran on crediting authority for navigation projects, ports like the Port of Gulfport would have greater flexibility in making dredging upgrades.”

Last year, Wicker played a key role in drafting the Senate version of the legislation. Following the House-Senate conference agreement last week, the bill was passed by the House of Representatives yesterday by an overwhelming vote of 412-4.

“Our ports and waterways are crucial to commerce, and our system of levees protects us from natural disasters,” Wicker continued. “These modernized ports and commercial waterways are critical to maintaining competitiveness in a global economy. They are essential to boosting trade and job growth across the nation.

“The agreement on this new water resources bill – the first in seven years, I might add – would accomplish a number of goals, from restructuring the inland waterways system to completing storm protection projects. It would help ensure U.S. industries have a reliable, navigable, and cost-effective transportation network to do business.

“For our coastal communities, this ‘Water Resources Development Act’ would also advance beneficial storm protection projects. Many of these projects, developed after Hurricane Katrina under the Mississippi Coastal Improvements Program, have been left unfinished. Their completion would help create more resilient coastal communities and lower the risk of future hurricane and storm damage.”

Other provisions in the new water resources bill seek to ensure fiscal responsibility by streamlining project requirements and timelines. This means allowing greater private contributions to infrastructure repairs and deauthorizing projects no longer in the national interest.

The last time Congress passed WRDA legislation was 2007. The law authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to participate in water conservation and the development of infrastructure projects throughout the country.