California Will Have Big Voice at WRRDA Bill Conference

Five members of California’s congressional delegation have been named to the conference committees that soon will meet to try to resolve differences in the House and Senate versions of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA).

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) will chair the Senate conference, and Reps. John Garamendi (D-03), Janice Hahn (D-44), Duncan D. Hunter (R-50) and Grace Napolitano (D-32) are serving in the House conference.

Among many functions, WRRDA authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ key projects and missions, such as waterway maintenance and flood protection. Historically Congress has passed a WRRDA bill every two years, but the last one was signed into law in 2007.

Though much is similar about the House (H.R. 3080) and Senate (S. 601) versions of the water legislation, there are several key differences that must be resolved. One difference revolves around who has the final authority to approve projects. The House bill would give Congress the power to approve or disapprove of Army Corps-recommend projects, while the Senate bill would leave such decisions up to the Executive Branch. The Senate bill also includes a new Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) authority, while the House bill does not.

The House version would authorize $3.1 billion for 23 projects over five years, while the Senate’s would authorize $5.7 billion during the the same span of time. Both bills enjoyed bipartisan support: H.R. 3080 passed 417-3 on Oct. 23; S. 601 was approved 83-14. The Obama administration is expected to support the final version of the legislation.

Photo: A levee along the Sacramento River