President Signs “Highway Bill’ for Boaters

President Barack Obama signs H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform & Development Act of 2014. Vice President Joe Biden and stakeholders share the stage with the President in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, June 10, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama signs H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform & Development Act of 2014. Vice President Joe Biden and stakeholders share the stage with the President in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, June 10, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama has signed bipartisan legislation that recognizes that the Federal government needs to do more to help small harbors, address longstanding dredging issues, and improve boating and navigation infrastructure. The 2013 Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) was sponsored by Congressmen Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Nick Rahall, III (D-WV) and Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and David Vitter (R-LA).

“Maintenance dredging for small harbors and shallow-draft channels has been chronically underfunded,” said BoatUS Government Affairs Senior Program Coordinator David Kennedy in a press release issued by the boating-advocacy group. “In addition, funding for infrastructure such as jetties and some inland navigation locks has been significantly curtailed. The 2013 WRRDA Act directs the Army Corps of Engineers to consider factors beyond total tonnage shipped in making dredging funding decisions, requires that not less than 10% of the value of operation and maintenance funds be directed to ‘Emerging Harbors’ or those that have less than one million tons of cargo shipped annually, and directs the Army Corps to report to Congress on the maintenance needs of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.”

Also, WRRDA for the first time treats the Great Lakes as one single comprehensive navigation system, potentially allowing funding for dredging of smaller harbors. In addition, the US Army Corps is directed to study potential new revenue sources for the Inland Waterways Trust Fund – and are required to consult recreational users, among other stakeholders.

Added Kennedy, “From small West Coast ports to Great Lakes harbors of refuge, inland locks, and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, boat owners depend on federal waterway infrastructure projects to keep them safe and provide authorized waterways deep enough for us to navigate. With 12 million registered boats in the US and over 80 million persons participating in boating, we also need to remember that boating generates $121 billion in US economic activity and over 950,000 jobs.”

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