U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee and a member of the Conference Committee to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), made the following statement today as the conference committee convened.
"Chairman Boxer and I made the WRDA bill a top priority this year and put it on the fast track because it's one of the single most significant pieces of legislation for Louisiana that we'll vote on this year," Vitter said. "We have the opportunity to reform the Corps of Engineers, streamline flood protection projects, finally get Morganza moving, and improve our waterways and infrastructure all in one bill. This is a huge benefit to the entire nation that is estimated to create up to 500,000 new jobs."
WRDA passed the Senate 83 to14 in March. It passed the House 417 to 3 in September.
The Senate version includes project acceleration provisions that ensure important water infrastructure projects are processed in an efficient manner and also makes reforms to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Projects like the studies for the West Shore Hurricane Protection and Southwest Louisiana Coastal Hurricane Protection will be accelerated by WRDA 2013.
Below are some of the specific provisions in the Senate version of WRDA that will benefit Louisiana:
* Provides for increased expenditures from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to dredge all Mississippi River and Calcasieu River ports and waterways to their constructed width and depth.
* Provides authority for the Corps to perform future levee lifts on hurricane protection systems that experience increasing subsidence and sea-level rise.
* Provides a new innovative water resources financing mechanism for communities to receive federal loans to construct critical water and wastewater facilities. This is important to all Louisiana parishes.
* Provides authority for the Corps to use the State Master Plan in-lieu of the Comprehensive Plan authorized under WRDA 07, as well as directing mitigation for Corps projects to high-priority ecosystem projects identified in the Master Plan.
* Makes it easier for non-Federal levees to be eligible for repair and rehabilitation.
* Requires the Corps to review levee vegetation policy and provide for regional and watershed variances.
* Creates a pilot program aimed at eliminating red tape and expediting backlogged Corps projects by delegating more project management responsibility to state and local governments.