House, Senate unveil water project bill compromise

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 15, 2014 at 6:28 pm •  Published: May 15, 2014
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WASHINGTON (AP) — House and Senate negotiators on Thursday unveiled a compromise bill that authorizes billions of dollars for water projects over the next decade, from flood protections in California to deepening Georgia's rapidly growing Port of Savannah.

Lawmakers released details of the Water Resources Reform and Development act a week after they announced a tentative agreement on legislation that blends House and Senate versions of the bill. The legislation will authorize 34 projects in virtually every region of the country. Lawmakers say it provides important investment in the nation's water infrastructure.

"This legislation is about jobs and our country's economic prosperity, and I look forward to bringing to back to the House for a final vote," said Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, who filed the bill Thursday.

The proposed investments include projects related to both expansion and flood protection.

The bill sanctions more than $748 million in federal funds for dredging and widening of the Sabine-Neches Waterway, an area billed as "America's Energy Gateway" because the roughly 80-mile waterway services oil and natural gas refineries in Texas and Louisiana.

The bill also would authorize more than $760 million for flood management in California's Natomas Basin and as much as $800 million for a flood diversion project that would protect the Red River Valley region of North Dakota and parts of Minnesota, which have suffered major floods in four of the past five years. About $492 million would go toward expanding and deepening the Port of Savannah.

The Senate passed its version of the bill roughly a year ago, with the House following suit in October. Since then, lawmakers have been working to thrash out differences between the two bills. The Senate's version would authorize about $12.5 billion over the next decade, while the House's version would cost about $8.2 billion. The compromise is expected to land somewhere in between the two, but a Congressional Budget Office estimate was not yet available.

Lawmakers have expressed a pent up demand for a water projects bill. Congress last authorized a bill in 2007 and many lawmakers have said they feared the U.S. was falling behind in its water infrastructure.

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