Washington, D.C. -- Alaska Congressman Don Young today voted in support of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA) Conference Report, bipartisan legislation that would optimize the project delivery process, promote fiscal responsibility, and strengthen the nation's water transportation and infrastructure needs. The Conference report, which passed the House today 412 to 4, would authorize 34 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects, including improvements in navigation, flood risk management, recreation, and infrastructure and environmental restoration.
"This WRRDA conference report is a major victory for the House leadership who led the charge in once again providing legitimate oversight to federal spending," said Congressman Don Young. "We worked hard within the boundaries set forth by the earmark moratorium to develop a reform bill that returns oversight of federal spending to Congress and streamlines the bureaucratic process. Not only is this conference report fiscally responsible -- deauthorizing $18 billion in inactive projects -- it also makes much needed policy reforms to promote our Nation's competitiveness, prosperity, and economic growth."
Since the moratorium on congressionally-directed spending, the Army Corps of Engineers' ability to fulfill its mission has been greatly reduced. The 2014 WRRDA agreement calls for a new process that would permit Congress to authorize specific projects in the future rather than deferring project selection to the Administration, as suggested by the Senate. Annually, the Corps of Engineers will compile requests from stakeholders and submit the list of project authorizations, studies, and modifications to existing Corps projects to Congress for consideration in future water resources development legislation. This process enables the identification and prioritization of projects in a transparent and accountable manner. The bill also contains groundbreaking policy reforms that establish hard deadlines for studies, reviews, and the permitting process.
"WRRDA is particularly important for the vast number of Alaskan communities who heavily rely on their ports and harbors for their social and economic well-being," said Congressman Don Young. "I commend both Senators Murkowski and Begich for their work that led to a unified Alaskan front in achieving a number of strong reforms for the betterment of our great state."
Of significant Alaskan importance, the following reforms supported by Congressman Young were included in the 2014 WRRDA Conference Report:
CITY OF SEWARD: The legislation removes a navigational servitude on waterfront land in Seward that currently impedes economic development of the property. The agreement removes the taint on title in order to allow investment prospects for the leasing, financing, and constructing of private buildings.
REMOTE AND SUBSISTENCE HARBORS: The legislation makes reforms to the current system Corp of Engineers uses to evaluate small, remote, and subsistence port and harbor projects, which had often excluded rural coastal communities in Alaska who heavily rely on waterborne commerce but lack the population base and economic scale necessary to compete with more developed ports in large urban areas. WRRDA provides a mechanism for Alaskan communities to receive equivalent budget priority as much larger port projects. The legislation would also allow for a unique cost-sharing provision that would allow non-federal sponsors to increase their percentage of contribution to the project cost, if they choose, and to use the non-federal funds to help kick start projects.
ARCTIC PORTS: Authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to provide technical assistance to non-federal public entities, including state, local and tribal governments for the development, construction, and operation and maintenance of deep draft harbors in the Arctic.