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Obama signs water resources bill into law

June 12, 2014
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President Obama signs bill<photocredit>Win McNamee/Getty Images North America/Thinkstock</photocredit>

The federal Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) has officially become law, after President Obama signed the bipartisan document on June 10. The legislation aims to make the U.S. inland waterways system more reliable and more effective.

The law places emphasis on reforms regarding the funding for locks projects. In the United States, a large proportion of existing locks have been beyond their design life for decades, making transportation by waterways highly inefficient. Passing of the bill has been welcomed by agricultural groups, as it is predicted to improve waterways transportation and facilitate shipments of the country's grain exports.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, implementing the legislation will cost about $12.3 billion over the next ten years. The WRRDA is expected to prioritize authorized improvements of waterways, based on assessment of risk of failure and economic return. The law will kick-start port upgrades in cities like Los Angeles, New Orleans and Boston and will facilitate ecosystem enhancement projects in sensitive areas such as the Chesapeake Bay and Florida Everglades. At the same time, it will de-authorize about $18 billion in old and inactive projects, according to media reports.

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, author of the bill, said that the WRRDA will cut red tape and make sure that the country has a modern and efficient transportation network, which will support the economy and help create jobs, the Tribune-Democrat reported.

The legislation includes the new Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA). Supported by the American Water Works Association, the Water Environment Federation and other water organizations, WIFIA is a finance tool to help communities address essential water and wastewater infrastructure projects at a lower cost.

"Today is a great day for our nation’s critical water resources and for our economy," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee who spearheaded passage of the measure. Boxer joined with committee Ranking Member Sen. David Vitter (R-La.,) to commend the President for signing into law "a strong, bipartisan bill which invests in vital water infrastructure that protects communities in California and across the nation from flooding, maintains navigation routes for commerce and the movement of goods, restores vital ecosystems and boosts our economy by creating jobs."

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