Doesn’t Hold Water

Michael J. Toohey is President and CEO of Waterways Council, Inc., and the headline of his column in the December issue of MARINE LOG is “America Wins This One”.

“Here’s a math word problem:” he begins. “Eight Senate conferees walk 250 yards to meet 28 House conferees to reconcile one long-overdue water resources development reauthorization bill that could provide anywhere from $ 83 million to $ 164 million annually for the nation’s 50+ year-old locks and dams on the 12,000 miles of navigable waterways in the U.S.

“Who benefits from this action? Answer: Just about every American who drives a car, has electricity, eats breakfast cereal or works in construction.

“By way of background, last May, after six years since the last water resources reauthorization legislation was passed in 2007, the Senate passed its version of the Water Resources Redevelopment Act (WRDA), S.601, by a strong bipartisan vote of 84-13. The House passed its Water Resources Reform Development Act (WRRDA) – H.R. 3090 – by an astounding vote of 417-3 in October.

“On November 5, conferees in both the Senate and the House were named to come together to reconcile the two bills …” [8 ‘conferees’ from the Senate and 28 ‘conferees’ from the House.]

“House and Senate conferees hope to conference the two versions into one strong bill that could be signed into law by the President at the end of this year. The bill would help modernize our waterways’ infrastructure, dredge our shipping channels, bolster our levees, make safer our dams, protect our critical ecosystems and marine habitats, create jobs, and prepare us for growing American exports.

“After a bill is signed into law, Congressional Appropriations will next focus on funding the WR(R)DA bill’s priorities, among them, harbor, port and channel improvements, and investment in locks and dams that facilitate more than 60% of the nation’s grain for export, 22% of its petroleum and petroleum products, and 20% of the coal used for electric power generation.

“One Senate bill + One House bill = a strong water resources law that underscores the importance of waterways investment to the supply chain equation.” –

The question asked was: “Who benefits from this action?” The real answer is “None of the above”. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the cost of this Act to be over $ 9 billion, but that figure holds no water. [Pun intended.] For example, of the $ 60 – $ 80 billion in previously authorized Corps of Engineers projects, less than $ 2 billion is funded annually. And of the $ 29 billion in projects authorized by WRDA 2007, the first dime has yet to be spent. So it’s all window dressing.

The truth of the matter is that only the 84 from the Senate and the 417 from the House will “benefit” from this Act. [Can you smell – err – spell “V-o-t-e-s” and “Campaign contributions”?]