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July 23, 2006 - WRDA - Finally Passed!

I can’t believe it! For the second consecutive week, a long-time wish has been granted. Last week the Senate passed WRDA, the Water Resources Development Act. We have written about it many times here on Samuelson Sez. It is the bill that passed the House by 400 votes a year ago, and then had languished in the Senate ever since.

But now, as agricultural producers who depend on the world market said, "Passage of the Water Resources Development Act in the Senate represents a major victory for agriculture, the environment and the entire Midwestern economy.”

Again, a quick review; WRDA authorizes 1.8-billion-dollars for five twelve-hundred foot locks on the Mississippi River and two on the Illinois River, at Peoria and La Grange, Illinois; and it represents the most extensive environmental restoration program in a century.

There are nearly a half-million jobs connected to the river system in the upper Midwest including 90,000 manufacturing jobs. The upgrades on the locks, expected to take 15 years, will provide a further economic catalyst by generating 48-million man-hours of construction work. Half of the cost of the locks and dams project, roughly a billion dollars, is already covered, financed by "users fees” paid into the Inland Waterway Trust Fund.

This is extremely important to the United States because agriculture is one of the few trade areas where we still have a positive balance of trade and this should enable us to maintain that positive balance. Two thirds of the nation’s grain exports travel down the Mississippi River system to the Gulf of Mexico and to our world customers. At the same time, consumer goods move up the river, so it is a victory for all of us.

Senator Kitt Bond of Missouri put it this way... "We are one step closer to modernizing our waterways so farmers and producers can be more efficient and more competitive. That is how you protect jobs here at home. Without a competitive transportation system, the promise of expanded trade and commercial growth is empty. Job opportunities are lost and we will be unprepared for the global challenges of this new century.” 

The two versions of the bill now go to a House-Senate Conference Committee to reconcile differences and then to the White House where President Bush has already said he will sign the bill. Then finally, the fifteen year project will begin. To members of the Senate, thank you!

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