Senate overwhelmingly approves water infrastructure bill


McClatchy Washington Bureau

In a rare display of bipartisanship on major legislation, the Senate passed a bill Wednesday to move forward on a variety of water infrastructure projects throughout the country.

The Water Resources Development Act, the first law of its kind in six years, would authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with flood control efforts, port improvements, wetlands restoration and coastal storm protection.

The $12.5 billion bill drew overwhelming support from Democrats and Republicans. The vote was 83-14. Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who sponsored the legislation, told colleagues that she was gratified.

“This type of a bill is not easy to get through,” Boxer said. “Every state has its own needs. We were able to meet the needs of the entire country.”

Boxer praised the work of her staff and Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, her Republican counterpart on the Environment and Public Works Committee, which she chairs. Vitter, a conservative who’s often at odds with Boxer, called her a “great partner.”

“We can come together on the infrastructure side of our committee,” he said.

The bill faces less certain prospects in the House of Representatives. Rep. Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican who leads the House Transportation Committee, is expected to bring up the legislation soon.

Rep. Doris Matsui, a Democrat who represents California’s flood-prone capital, Sacramento, said it was her colleagues’ turn to act. Matsui and Boxer have long sought federal funds to strengthen Sacramento’s levee system to protect the region from the kind of destruction that resulted when Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans.

“The Senate has provided a good starting point, as well as a good example of cooperation,” Matsui said in a statement. “Working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I know we can do the same in the House.”

The bill includes language that would expedite the environmental review process that many critics say leads to unnecessary delays and added costs in such projects. But it drew objections from environmental groups and the White House, which argued that it would undercut longstanding environmental laws. After the vote, some voiced their disappointment.

“Unfortunately, language in this bill undermines the bedrock environmental principle that the federal government should look before it leaps,” Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said in a statement.

“This bill must be fixed before the president signs it into law,” he added.

The bill had strong backing from numerous business and labor groups. Kurt Nagle, president of the Association of American Port Authorities, offered praise, noting that America’s ports planned to invest $46 billion in improvements over five years. The Corps of Engineers would do much of the work, including dredging harbors and deepening shipping channels, and Nagle said the bill would get that moving.

“Increased investments are needed to better maintain and improve the transportation infrastructure on our three coasts and the Great Lakes,” he said. “We need the federal government to uphold its end of the partnership.”

Email:; Twitter: @tatecurtis

Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  • US home prices rose at slower pace in July

    U.S. home prices rose in July but at a slower rate compared with earlier this year. The moderating price increases could help support sales.

A portrait of North Korean leader Kim Jung Un posing with a North Korean gold medalist in Judo, An Kum Ae, decorates the walls of a local gymnasium, Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014 in Pyongyang, North Korea. In just over a week, North Korea will send its top athletes to win gold for their leader in what could well be the biggest sporting event of their lives and a major propaganda campaign for their nation, the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.

    North Korea athletes on mission for political gold

    It's a hot, sunny morning at the newly refurbished Sosan Football Stadium in Pyongyang. Two women's soccer teams head to the sidelines of the artificial turf, leaving only a row of archers to continue their practice before several senior sports ministry officials. So sure are they of their aim — or, perhaps, so impromptu is the decision to have them shoot here — that there are no barriers behind the targets, posted on simple squares of straw.

  • 6 candidates in running for equestrian presidency

    Six candidates — all from Europe — are in the running to replace Princess Haya of Jordan as president of the International Equestrian Federation.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category