Politics

Water Resources Bill Passes Congress, to the Benefit of Florida

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: May 20, 2014 4:00 PM
Ander Crenshaw, Corrine Brown, Dan Webster

Ander Crenshaw, Corrine Brown, Dan Webster

To the delight of state leaders and the entire Florida delegation, the U.S. House overwhelmingly voted to pass the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) Conference Report on a 412-4 vote on Tuesday.

The measure now heads to the U.S. Senate, which is expected to pass it.

Leaders from Florida insisted it will boost the area by supporting ports, even as the Panama Canal expansion nears completion, helping Apalachicola Bay’s oyster business by including water agreements with Georgia and Alabama and helping Everglades restoration.

The Florida Ports Council has been in Washington, D.C. this week for its spring Fly-In with the Florida Department of Transportation and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity advocating for this legislation.

“The passage of the WRRDA report by the U.S. House is a huge step toward having the first water resources legislation in six years," said Doug Wheeler, president and CEO of the Florida Ports Council. "Florida ports are grateful for the immense amount of time and effort that our congressional members and staff have spent in advocating for our system of ports and freight infrastructure. This bill contains improvements to the project approval process at the federal level, as well as other policy improvements, to assist Florida ports’ efforts in creating jobs, growing the economy and continuing to position Florida as a global hub for business.”

Former U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney, president and CEO of the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), praised Congress for passing the report, insisting it will help the Sunshine State.

“With the passage of WRRDA today by the U.S. Congress, Florida can expect to see a boost in economic growth and job development by way of manufacturing and transportation industries looking to locate near our Florida ports,” said Feeney. “Along with Gov. Rick Scott, AIF and its members have been advocating to expand our ports’ capabilities to accommodate the supersized ships and build more manufacturing and transportation infrastructure as a result of the Panama Canal expansion.”

Feeney singled out leaders from both parties for their efforts in passing the report.

“As a state affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers, AIF has supported these maritime and manufacturing efforts in our nation’s Capitol, and we applaud the leadership efforts by Gov. Scott, Congresswoman Corrine Brown, Congresswoman Lois Frankel, Congressman John Mica, Congressman Steve Southerland, and Congressman Dan Webster for seeing this good bill through the process,” Feeney added. “AIF supports WRDA and encourages the U.S. Senate to pass this bill so that we can see the fruits of its labor in action here in Florida.”

“Florida's water resources are a competitive advantage that we must continue to responsibly develop,” said U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Fla.  “Investing in our ports, harbors and other water infrastructure will expand our economic footprint, create jobs and help us compete to be the crossroads of international trade following the completed expansion of the Panama Canal. If you manufacture goods, import or export products, ship containers or aggregates, retail consumer merchandise, or work in any of these industries, then this bill is for you.”

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., took to the House floor to praise the bill.

“The Water Resources Development Act Conference Report is a perfect example of how government is supposed to work,” Brown said. “I want to thank Sens. Boxer and Vitter and Congressmen Shuster, Gibbs, Rahall and Bishop for their commitment to producing a comprehensive and bipartisan bill supported by all stakeholders. I also want to thank President Obama for his leadership in improving and expediting the process for completing projects at the Corps of Engineers and encouraging Congress to complete the WRDA Conference. I hope this bipartisanship continues as we reauthorize Surface Transportation Programs.

“This legislation includes a lot of positive provisions that are going to help improve, expand, and accelerate Corps of Engineers projects,” Brown insisted. “These projects, in turn, will improve the safety of the American public, generate billions of dollars in economic activity, create hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs, and benefit the nation’s economy as a whole.”

Brown and U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., insisted the report would help the First Coast.

“The improved policy and programs in this conference report are great news for the nation and my home state of Florida,” Brown said. “Along with the authorization for both Mile Point and JAXPORT channel dredging that I championed, the bill includes authorizing language for numerous critical water infrastructure projects throughout Florida. The bill also allows for federal assumption of operations and maintenance for projects paid for by nonfederal sponsors, includes a provision that will allow ports to utilize more of the harbor maintenance tax, and allows local sponsors to fund and seek future reimbursement for any project that receives its chief’s report. This language is essential because there are still several critical projects that will be ready to go long before we do another reauthorization.”

Said Crenshaw, “Passage of the WRRDA bill means authorization for JAXPORT dredging and a fix for Mile Point -- a giant step forward for job creation and economic growth in Northeast Florida. I’ve backed these projects from day one and couldn’t be happier to vote for this comprehensive bill on the House floor today. With the long-overdue removal of navigation hazards at Mile Point and the dredging of the St. Johns River, large cargo container ships can move into the region, bringing more trade, more jobs, and a stronger economy for decades to come. That’s a win-win across the board.”

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.


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