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House Passes Water Bill

By a nearly unanimous vote of 412 to 4, the House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act Tuesday. The authorizing legislation aims to improve harbor maintenance and speed up repairs of locks and dams on the nation's inland waterway.

The Senate still has to act on the final legislation. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) told reporters Tuesday that he was informed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), that "WRRDA would come up this week" for a vote in that chamber.

The vote drew praise from the National Corn Growers Association. NCGA president Martin Barbre said the law would make "concrete steps toward repairing and improving our inland waterways."

"WRRDA is crucial to farmers as more than 60% of the nation’s grain exports are transported by barge," Barbre added. "The locks and dams we depend upon to transport our cargoes today were built in the 1920s and 1930s. It is imperative that we improve this crucial infrastructure. The need is urgent; U.S. farmers and businesses rely upon this transportation channel. Infrastructure improvements fuel our domestic economy and improve our ability to compete in markets abroad."

The success of the law will depend also on how much money Congress actually appropriates for repairs and modernization. And Congress has not yet increased a fuel tax paid by barge companies and other inland shippers, which would make more funds available.

"NCGA is also hopeful that Congress will soon address a proposed increase to the diesel fuel user fee, which would provide additional revenue to the Inland Waterways Trust Fund," the group said in a statement. "By increasing this tax between 6¢ and 9¢ per gallon of fuel, the industries using the waterways would be able to provide needed funds for the improvement and maintenance of the infrastructure on which they rely."

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