2014-02-12 National Governors Association

WRDA Reauthorization

The Honorable Barbara Boxer
Chairman
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Bill Shuster
Chairman
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable David Vitter
Ranking Member
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Nick Rahall
Ranking Member
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Boxer, Chairman Shuster, Senator Vitter and Representative Rahall:

The nation’s governors applaud the House and Senate for each passing bipartisan Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) legislation and urge the conference committee to finalize an agreement as soon as possible. The traditionally biennial legislation, which is vital to the safety, environmental protection and economic development of state and local communities, was last passed six years ago.

Earlier this year, National Governors Association (NGA) Chair Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on behalf of NGA to thank Congress for advancing WRDA and to urge the incorporation of the Governors’ Recommendations for Reauthorizing the Water Resources Development Act.  The governors recognize that our nation’s infrastructure systems are multi-modal and interconnected, so the completion of this long-awaited bill is critical to providing basic mobility and service delivery needs for our citizens. Therefore, as the House-Senate conference committee works toward a final agreement, governors urge conferees to carefully consider the following principles and recommendations:

  • Create a fair priority setting mechanism for federal public works projects in the absence of project specific authorizations and modifications and ensure that state needs, plans and preparedness goals are considered in that process;
  • Ensure long-term certainty and stability;
  • Direct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to implement more streamlined engagement and direct communications with governors;
  • Modernize Corps water resources management to a systems-based approach that focuses on regions and efficiencies of combining multiple projects across business lines, rather than single project design and construction;
  • Adopt an integrated water resources planning policy that promotes collaboration among federal, state and local governments;
  • Ensure all receipts in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and the Inland Waterways Trust Fund are equitably allocated and dedicated for their intended purpose;
  • Authorize states to develop and leverage private resources to maintain and operate water infrastructure currently deemed the sole responsibility of the federal government; and
  • Consult states when considering national policies that address reservoir boundaries.

Additionally, NGA understands that there are some issues that a WRDA reauthorization cannot address at this time; e.g., the challenges with indemnification that some states face in entering into agreements with the Corps because of prohibitions under state laws and constitutions. We look forward to working with Congress going forward to address these matters.

By approving a long-awaited WRDA bill as soon as possible, Congress can provide the necessary certainty and predictability to facilitate economic growth through sound long-term investments in our nation’s water resources infrastructure.

Sincerely,

Governor Jack Dalrymple
Chair, Natural Resources Committee

Governor Dannel P. Malloy
Vice Chair, Natural Resources Committee