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March 26, 2007 - WRDA

Does anybody remember what WRDA means? I talked about it a couple times last year, but it had faded into the background of my memory until last week when an e-mail asked me what, if anything, was happening with WRDA.

WRDA is the acronym for Water Resources Development Act, legislation that would bring much-needed renovation to the crumbling waterway transportation system on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, a vital link for Midwest farmers exporting their products to world markets. A quick review of the legislation is in order.

The legislation that would provide $1.8-billion for seven new locks on the two rivers made it through the House and Senate in 2006 and then died in Conference Committee as the session ended. That means the legislation starts anew this year and two weeks ago, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee sent its version to the House floor for consideration. This year’s Committee markup calls for the same dollar amount and number of lock reconstructions, but an amendment has been added that would require the Army Corps of Engineers to hire half of the workers locally. That provision strengthens support from Midwest labor unions which have already joined agricultural organizations in support of WRDA

One of the problems in getting national support for the legislation is the perception that it is a Midwest problem, but it isn’t. It is national and even international because of the economic impact on the one segment of our economy that has a positive trade balance..agriculture. And it is not just an agricultural need because the barge traffic that moves north from the Gulf carries energy products and goods for all consumers.

As stated before, WRDA needs our support and that means continual contact with members of the House now and later, with the Senate, urging them to finish work on the bill and send it on to the White House for the signature of President Bush before the 2007 session ends.
Work on this legislation started way back in 1999 and the delays have carried us into the eighth year without action. That 8-year delay means the locks and dams have continued to deteriorate while barge traffic has increased and construction costs have continued to escalate. The nation needs the waterway transportation system and officials tell us once the work begins, it will take 15 years to complete the reconstruction. With our foreign competitors building transportation infrastructure, we can’t wait any longer and Congress needs to hear this message loud and strong from all of us....approve WRDA now!

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.