The Senate this week revealed the names of legislators who will sit on a committee to reconcile water resources legislation passed in both chambers earlier this year.
The legislation, Water Resources Development Act and Water Resources Reform and Development Act in the Senate and House, respectively, authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to carry out waterways infrastructure projects, thus improving conditions for commercial shippers and agricultural trade.
The legislation also de-authorizes old construction projects to alleviate the Corps' $60 billion project backlog and allows non-federal funding of waterways projects. Additional provisions revamp the Inland Waterways Trust Fund.
Senators appointed to sit on the committee include Sens. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., David Vitter, R-La., John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Ben Cardin, D-Md., Tom Carper, D-Del. and Max Baucus, D-Mont.
Inhofe, Vitter, Baucus and Boxer also sat on the conference committee to authorize the most recent Water Resources Act, passed in 2007. Boxer will chair this year's committee.
Sen. Vitter noted that the bill represents "one of the single most significant pieces of infrastructure legislation we've voted on this year."
"I look forward to working to get a final bill that includes our Senate provisions. We have the opportunity to reform the Corps of Engineers, streamline flood protection projects, and improve our waterways and infrastructure all in one bill. This is a huge benefit for our entire country," he said in a press statement.
Though the House passed its bill Oct. 24 with a 417-3 vote, it has yet to appoint conferees. Expected negotiators include House Transportation Committee leader and WRRDA champion Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Penn.
The two bills present many similarities, though a notable difference includes a provision in the Senate bill that would alter Environmental Protection Agency on-farm fuel storage regulations mandated by the agency's Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure.
The Senate bill also includes authorization for the Army Corps of Engineers to provide grants to local governments for developing levee safety projects, though the House bill only includes planning assistance, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates.
CBO expects the cost of the WRDA overall to be about $12.5 billion from 2014 to 2023, versus $8.2 billion for the House legislation over the same time period.
Following conference, the bill will go to the President's desk. According to the White House, President Obama would support the House's Republican-crafted version with a few caveats, though the Senate version is preferred.