Congress Passes WRRDA Legislation

Congress managed to set aside its usual partisan bickering and recently came together on a major piece of legislation that will benefit the Super Region and all of Florida.

The House on May 20 approved the final conference committee version of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) by a 412-4 vote, and the Senate followed suit right before Memorial Day, approving the measure by a 91-7 margin. The entire Super Region House delegation voted in favor of the bill, as did both Florida Senators, Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R).

In voting overwhelmingly to pass WRRDA, Congress authorized $12 billion in new funding for projects designed to improve the nation’s ports and waterways infrastructure. Additionally, it put significant cost and time constraints on feasibility studies by the Army Corps of Engineers, de-authorized $18 billion in outdated projects and will terminate any newly authorized project not substantially completed after seven years.

Virtually all Florida ports stand to benefit from the bill, as it will help them prepare to service the larger container vessels that will be shipping most cargo — especially goods traveling through the widened Panama Canal — in the future. The Florida Ports Council cited these benefits in praising passage of the bill.

“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,” council President Doug Wheeler said in a statement released after the House vote. “This bill contains improvements o 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.”

When urging Congress to pass the bill last fall, Wheeler noted that Florida is home to 15 public seaports that create 680,000 direct and indirect jobs and $96 billion in total economic value. The council indicates these activities account for $2.4 billion in state and local tax revenues.

No money has reached the ports yet. The next step is for Congres to begin appropriating the money authorized by this bill.